The board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) voted to transfer administration and oversight of the annual Baptist college scholarship program from the convention to the North Carolina Baptist Foundation (NCBF).
The vote was the result of a motion recommended by the Christian Higher Education Special Committee during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on May 20 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. The motion was approved unanimously by the board.
Scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students from cooperating N.C. Baptist churches who attend one of the five affiliated educational institutions will be funded through an endowment established by NCBF, rather than through Cooperative Program (CP) funds received through the BSC.
The foundation’s board has already established the endowment by reclassifying funds that were previously designated for student loans so they can be used to fund scholarship. The student loan fund has been underutilized for many years, which led the foundation to take action to legally reclassify the fund, said Clay Warf, executive director of NCBF.
“Thanks to the efforts of the late Tom Dimmock, a foundation board member, we have been successful in converting the Luther H. Butler Student Loan Fund to the Luther H. Butler Scholarship Fund for N.C. Baptist students,” Warf said. “We are delighted to join forces with the Baptist State Convention in administering the N.C. Baptist scholarship program.”
The conversion enables the new endowment to begin with almost $3 million. Investment income from the endowment will be available for scholarships beginning in 2016. That figure could grow even higher.
The Christian higher education special committee also asked the BSC executive committee to consider making additional contributions to the scholarship endowment from some existing reserve funds managed by the convention. The executive committee will consider that request at a future meeting.
The board’s vote also included a measure that makes financial need a factor in allocating scholarship funds. Gordon Benton, chairman of the Christian higher education special committee, said making the scholarship a competitive, needs-based award was an important consideration for the committee.
Benton said that while the changes may mean that fewer total scholarships will be awarded, the scholarships that are awarded will be for a higher dollar amount.
Funds allocated for scholarships through the convention’s CP budget have decreased each year since 2009 as the overall convention budget has also decreased, Benton noted. Those decreases led convention and foundation leaders to appoint a special higher education subcommittee in January to explore options for changing the way scholarships are funded and administered.
Officials said funding the scholarships through the foundation’s endowment instead of the BSC budget means that more funds will be available for scholarships.
Committee, convention and foundation leaders also said they hope to see the number and amount of scholarships that are awarded to grow over time as the endowment increases. Individuals, churches and businesses can also make contributions to the scholarship endowment.
Transitioning oversight from the convention to the foundation should be complete by the time rising high school seniors begin the scholarship application process this fall. Students should notice few, if any, changes to the application process.
Seniors are asked to check NCBF’s website (ncbaptistfoundation.org) this fall for instructions and deadlines. Applications should be submitted in the fall of 2015. Students will be notified of scholarship decisions in the spring of 2016, prior to their college enrollment in the fall of 2016.
Scholarships will be awarded to full-time, undergraduate and graduate students attending one of the five affiliated Baptist institutions in North Carolina. They include: Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill University and Wingate University. In addition, students attending Meredith College will be eligible for scholarships in compliance with the original terms of the Luther H. Butler Student Loan Fund.