For more than a decade prior to 1999, Conway Branch AAUW raised scholarship funds each year by honoring an outstanding member and inviting the nominee’s family and friends to make contributions. (Mavis was one of those honorees.) Nineteen scholarships averaging almost $500 were awarded during that period.
In 1999, member Ruth Byrne Dotson died, bequeathing a large portion of her estate to the Standefer Fund. The bequest enabled the branch to increase the number and value of scholarship awards.
Ruth had been a “non-traditional student.” That label had been used in higher education since the late 1950s, when older-than-average adults began returning to colleges and universities after some time “out in the world.” She wanted to help single parents who were attending one of the three colleges in Conway and who had dependent children. She preferred that they be taking 12 or more hours in a four-year degree program (or attending full time in a master’s program), earning a grade-point average of at least 2.80 on a four-point scale.
Now, however, so many “older-than-25s”–-especially women–-are continuing their education that they outnumber the younger crowd at some institutions. The “non-traditional” label is thus less specific. Local student bodies–young and older–have become more diverse; degree plans and formats have become more numerous; and the costs of attending college are ever-increasing.
Conway Branch’s commitment to the scholarship program remains strong. As it seeks to balance and prioritize the characteristics of its applicants, it maintains its flexibility to determine the amount of a scholarship and the number of scholarships awarded.