Hilo couple endow
$2.4 million scholarship
UH-Hilo students can qualify
for tuition help of up to $2,000 each
HILO >> The University of Hawaii-Hilo hopes a new scholarship program that will award tuition money to 120 students next year will help attract and retain students.
The scholarships of up to $2,000 each are endowed by a $2.4 million donation from Alec and Kay Keith of Hilo.
The couple's gift is one of the largest private donations the UH system has received from an individual.
Alec Keith, a retired professor of biophysics who holds several patents from his years in the pharmaceutical industry, said there was no special reason for the gift.
"Just the fact that there are a lot of people in this area that are almost able to afford to go to college but need a little bit of help," he said. "That's all, nothing special."
School officials are specifically targeting Hawaii students who don't always qualify for enough financial aid.
"The students we most often lose are those from low-income working families," said Keith Miser, vice chancellor for student affairs. "Their family income often exceeds the level that qualifies for some of the major financial aid grants, yet requires some financial assistance to make a college education affordable."
Other scholarships are available at the campus of 3,400 students, but most awards are between $500 and $1,000, said Jeff Scofield, financial aid director at UH-Hilo.
The scholarships will be awarded to 96 students from Hawaii and 24 students from the current and former U.S. territories in the Pacific, including Guam, the Marshall Islands and American Samoa, he said.
The money will be split among incoming freshmen and returning upperclassmen.
"For some of the ones that come from the Pacific islands, a lot of them are coming from very small schools and communities, and our campus may be a better fit than a larger school," Scofield said.
With next year's tuition for a full-time, in-state student costing $2,424, the scholarship would cover more than 80 percent of a student's cost, he said.
"That level of award is almost hard to come by," he said.
Scofield said the amount of the Keiths' gift to the school is very rare.
The fact that they live in Hilo will allow students to connect with them, he said.
Students don't need to apply separately for the scholarships -- each student who files a financial aid application will automatically be considered.