Braman gift will help college students cross the finish line

Charitable gifts to our local colleges and universities are not unusual, but some deserve noting because they are targeted to help a specific group, make a specific difference.

So is the case of the Braman Family Foundation latest gift to Florida International University and Miami Dade College — two local schools whose open door policy and mission to provide quality and affordable higher education to all who seek it, but especially low income and immigrant students. Both schools have altered for the better the course of many lives South Florida — but there is a dark side. Many students who enroll in college in Florida and across the country, don’t graduate.

Statistic show that the last mile in seeking a degree is the hardest for financially-strapped students. Nationwide, approximately 15 percent of college students drop out with 75 percent of their credits completed. Frequently, the number one reason for giving up is financial.

Now, this targeted gift from the foundation created by local billionaire Norman Braman focuses on guaranteeing students struggling help to hold on to the finish line.

The Braman Family Foundation is making the $1 million gift to MDC and FIU as an incentive for students to enroll full-time during their last year of studies at for the institutions to facilitate and accelerate their degree completion — and maybe not have to work full-time. What a relief for those students,

“We know that there are many students who are unable to complete their education due to financial limitations and, with this gift, we are excited to see more students graduate on time in the coming year.” said Debi Braman Wechsler, director of the Braman Family Foundation, during the gift presentation last week.

The Braman Family Completion Scholarship program will support 1,000 students each year — 500 from each institution — who are in their last year of studies. They will be award a $1,000 scholarship. And it’s not all on the students. Each institution has requirements that will ensure that the Braman scholars find success in their final year.

FIU’s President Mark B. Rosenberg calls the Braman gift. “transformative” in the support to hopeful graduates. Consequently, a better live is then on the horizon, says MDC’s President Eduardo J. Padrón. “At MDC, we believe opportunity changes everything.”

The gifts has a dual benefit. By helping students graduate, it will hopefully help colleges and universities increase their funding from the state under the new funding formula for higher education institutions.

Historically, many colleges have received state funding based on how many full-time students are enrolled at the beginning of the semester. This model provides incentives for colleges to enroll students, but it doesn’t necessarily provide incentives for institutions to help students successfully complete degree programs.

There’s been a change in Florida. Beginning in 2016, two and four-year institutions receive a portion of funding through performance-based formulas. The amount of new state funding appropriated by the legislature for performance funding will be matched by and equal amount reallocated from each institution’s space funding.

Needless to say, the Braman gift is a blessing for both college students and the institutions they attend.