Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Break a Sweat, Help a Student Stay in College

The 4.NINERK's not just another autumn run (or walk) in the park, benefiting a worthy charity. It's a scrappy attempt to bring in money that can help cash-strapped UNC Charlotte students stay in school. And as of today, organizers expect more than 300 runners and walkers to take part in the 4.9 kilometer run (or walk), and a fun slate of entertainment on the campus, Oct. 24 at 8:49. For details point your browser to

UNC Charlotte students returned form fall break last week. Among the 24,700 are hundreds who barely made ends meet for fall semester, and without something extraordinary intervening, they likely won't be able to return in January -- because they don't have the money. Traditional sources of financial aid have been exhausted; the Great Recession has seen to that. So, rather than sitting back and bemoaning the sad state of affairs, UNC Charlotte's division of university relations and community affairs is driving this novel idea to stage a recreational event and forward every dollar of proceeds to need-based scholarships.

UNC Charlotte is becoming a more traditional university in that more students live on or immediately near campus. It offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs and works closely with business and other community leaders to add value to metro Charlotte; in this ways it is traditional. But many of its students are not traditional. Many are first generation college students, and many work more than one job just to get by. They can't rely on the home folks to foot the bill -- even in the pre- and post-recession years.

Case in point: a real student we'll call John Doe. A sudden family illness when he was in high school left his family scrambling to keep afloat. They managed to deliver John to UNC Charlotte but he only stayed in school through a succession of financial aid, some of which may no longer be available to others in his position. Many, if not most of us who graduated did so with the help of loans or scholarships, but relatively few of us were desperate to make it through. Imagine if the financial doors had been shut to you -- maybe they were, and you know what it means to delay your dream of a college education.

In any case, Oct. 24 is a special date on the calendar. A time to get some fresh air, enjoy the beautiful UNC Charlotte campus, take on an awesome race course and break a sweat to help a student stay in college.

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