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Clemens clamp down

Tuition grants will only be for second-generation students, certain schools
Covallis Gazette-Times, Archives, April 11, 2008 by Kyle Odegard

The Clemens Foundation — which since the 1960s has paid college tuition for thousands of high school graduates from Philomath, Eddyville and Alsea — has changed its grant criteria, severely limiting who it will help starting this fall.

To receive Clemens grants, students must now be a second-generation resident of one of these communities, and attend a conservative private college from an approved list or a trade, vocational or medical school. Students attending public colleges or universities are no longer eligible for the grants, with the exception of some students who enroll in trade or vocational courses. Veterinary or medical schools that are part of a public university may be considered on an individual basis.

“The world is changing,” said Clemens Foundation Board of Directors treasurer Fred Lowther, when asked for reasons behind the new rules. “There’s new criteria. It’s all in the paperwork the kids pick up. That’s all they need to know. We have the right to change it.” The Clemens Foundation awarded $1.75 million worth of college tuition grants in 2006, according to federal nonprofit mandatory paperwork. The foundation’s net value at that time was $30 million.

Philomath Schools Superintendent Pete Tuana said he was surprised by the change when he learned about it on Thursday, and said students have expressed their frustration to him. “I’m disappointed for kids,” he said.

“For some students, it will make a difference on whether they can immediately attend school. But it is their money,” said Philomath High School Principal Kent Sherwood.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Philomath High School senior Joe Gates, 17, who plans to go to Linn-Benton Community College in the fall. “They had this grant forever. I’ve been going here since I was 5. I’ve been looking forward to it for the last 12 years. Then they take it away.”

“I’ll just have to take out more loans,” said Adam Schreiner-McGraw, a senior who plans to attend the University of Oregon.

Other students said they think the intent of the grant program has been warped.
Now, instead of providing aid to a small town, it’s being used as leverage to guide the community’s politics and beliefs, said Kasra Azizian, 17, who will attend the University of Oregon in the fall. [Emphasis added]

Grant application paperwork says that a list of acceptable colleges can be found at yaf.org, the Web site of the conservative political organization the Young America’s Foundation.

The Clemens Foundation was created by the late Rex and Ethel Clemens, who owned a saw mill and timber land. They made a fortune in the logging industry, and donated land, athletic fields and millions of dollars worth of tuition grants to the community. Though they shunned the spotlight, the town’s football field, swimming pool and primary school are named after them.

The Clemenses didn’t have children of their own, and their nephews Fred, David and Steve Lowther now are in key leadership spots with the philanthropic foundation the couple created. They have made significant changes to its grant program in the last five years.

For years, the Clemens Foundation provided a grant equivalent to tuition at Oregon State University for any high school graduate from Philomath, Alsea, Eddyville or the Eastern Oregon town of Crane who wanted to attend college.

In 2003, the Clemens Foundation made national headlines when it issued an ultimatum to Philomath School District officials to make administrative changes, claiming the local schools had become too “politically correct.” The scholarship program’s eligibility requirements were altered to reflect the foundation’s values.

Favored status was given to students who were members of such groups as 4-H and Boy Scouts and a requirement was added that students have a family background in timber, ranching, farming, mining, manufacturing or occupations in support of those industries.

The foundation continued to provide scholarships to most who applied, but some were turned down.

In 2005, the Clemens Foundation suspended its grants for students attending Oregon State University, saying there was a decline in ethics at the school and its quality of education. About 150 recipients were enrolled at OSU at the time.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 758-9523.
Additional articles:
Corvallis Gazette-Times, April 14, 2008 by Kyle Odegard Retired Educator: Clemens mission lost.
April 19, 2008 - GT Editorial and Comments: Foundation seems short-sighted, within rights

1 comment:

  1. A student said,
    "...it’s [the gift] being used as leverage to guide the community’s politics and beliefs..."

    Oh, the irony. As if that's not what's happening at many colleges today?

    Kudo's to the Lowther's for standing up for American capitalism.

    ReplyDelete