College financial aid packages often include institutional scholarships, money that the colleges award students that doesn’t need to be paid back. Minnesota Private Colleges award over $614 million in institutional scholarships each year. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota student Zechariah Kitzhaber is just one student whose education is supported by these scholarships.
While in high school in Wisconsin, Kitzhaber looked at a few different colleges — some private, some public — and after talking with his parents he knew he wanted to go to the college that could make it the most affordable. “Cost was definitely one of the biggest factors when I was picking colleges,” Kitzhaber remembered. “I was mainly looking at larger schools but a few smaller schools too. I didn’t want to go into debt if I didn’t have to.”
Now a senior, Kitzhaber said he was pleasantly surprised when he received Saint Mary’s financial aid package and he opted for the Winona institution. Along with two institutional scholarships from Saint Mary’s, his package also includes a Pell Grant, which is tied to financial need. Kitzhaber has worked hard to line up other resources: he receiving a community scholarship, has a campus job as an RA and has a paid off-campus internship.
For Kitzhaber’s first two years, he was debt free. “After sophomore year, one of my scholarships ended,” Kitzhaber said. “Saint Mary’s financial aid was so helpful and luckily I only needed to take out a small loan for my junior year and was able to secure another scholarship for senior year.”
In his first year Kitzhaber was studying philosophy at Saint Mary’s seminary; he’s now a chemistry major but is still connected with on-campus ministry. He’s also on the club ultimate Frisbee team and is first chair trombone in the college’s jazz band.
Kitzhaber is headed to the University of South Carolina to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry after he graduates this spring.
“Affording college first starts with hard work — in high school, in college and finding scholarships and opportunities to make things a little easier,” Kitzhaber said. “College sounds expense, but with hard work it can be affordable.”
At Minnesota Private Colleges, 95 percent of our first-year students receive grants and scholarships that do not have to be paid back. And for every $1 in state and federal grant aid our colleges award $6 in institutional aid.