First-generation college sophomores at the University of Texas at Arlington will be able to access a new scholarship thanks to the newly established Shirlee J. and Taylor Gandy First Generation Scholarship Program.
A new $1 million endowment was established with the help of a $500,000 gift committed by the Gandys. Their gift aims to provide scholarships to sophomores who excel academically and who are the first in their families to attend college.
UTA sophomores will be selected for the scholarship based on merit and financial need. The Gandy’s gift was doubled in value through the university’s Maverick Match program, which leverages UTA’s natural gas royalties to encourage new donations.
Shirlee Gandy, president of RPM Commercial in Fort Worth, earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from UTA in 1970. She also serves on the university’s development board.
“I was the first in my family to graduate college, and at the time I did not realize the tremendous impact it would forever have on my life,” Shirlee Gandy said in a press release. “...We wanted to make this financial commitment to help first generation students achieve their goals.”
Gandy said students can apply for the scholarship for their sophomore year plus the junior and senior years.
“It’s not a one time thing,” she said, adding that she and her husband want to ease the burden of student debt for these students.
Gandy said the rising cost of tuition, housing and books can result in painful student debt.
Georgina Martinez, a 21-year-old first-generation college student, said she juggles her studies with two jobs. She also relies on UTA academic aid programs through the Maverick Promise to pay for tuition. She said it is a major effort to continue to find scholarships to pay school bills, but investment in higher education is key to a better future.
"Education is the way to go," Martinez said.