Beverley and Tom Simpson want to shore up a gap they see by giving more students the chance to attend college in Cayman.
The couple, long involved with education, have provided the seed money to establish the Community Engagement Programme at the University College of the Cayman Islands. The programme will initially provide need-based scholarships for up to 20 students annually.
At UCCI’s commencement last month, President and CEO Stacy McAfee presented the Simpsons with the school’s annual Community Partner Award for their efforts. The annual award recognizes companies and individuals who have provided support to the university.
Currently, government and most private scholarships in Cayman are based upon academic performance. Students must achieve a certain grade point average to be eligible. The Simpsons believe there are students who, while not meeting those standards, are still motivated to learn. Tom, who served on the UCCI Board of Governors for several years, said academia is not always a level playing field.
“Merit-based criteria are about more than the kids just being bright,” he said. “Those students often come from families that give them a leg up, either because the parents are successful or college-educated themselves. What about the kids that don’t have that? You’ve got perfectly good students who could qualify for scholarships, but they don’t, and it may be because they didn’t have some of those advantages growing up.”
So, with the Simpson’s son, Jack, graduating from college this year, the couple decided to take the US$50,000 they’d been spending on his tuition and other costs of education each year and give that amount annually to UCCI to help local students.
McAfee said the initial funding will allow the university college to be more inclusive in its admissions. It is hoped that additional donors will come on board and boost the programme’s resources, she said.
“The goal of education should be to cast a wide net,” McAfee said. “The ultimate goal is that anyone who wants to learn, and shows a willingness to work hard, shouldn’t be held back for financial reasons.”
The Simpsons said they also hope the programme will encourage more students to study in Cayman. The government invests millions of dollars to send its best and brightest students overseas to study. The Community Engagement Programme, they said, is a way to nurture young minds here at home and promote nation building.
With enrolment at UCCI growing – the student population grew approximately 25 percent last year – such support is needed more than ever.
“I still feel we’ve barely scratched the surface,” McAfee said. “If we could make higher education more accessible on every level, we could tap into so much potential.”
Applications for the new scholarships will be taken from June 1 through July 16. Students need to meet the following criteria:
• Demonstrated potential for civic leadership and service to Cayman;
• First-generation college student (parents did not complete a college degree);
• Cayman resident for at least one year;
• New student or in the first year of study at UCCI; and
• Committed to using education to improve the Cayman community.
Recipients will receive up to $2,500 per year for tuition, books, fees and other related educational needs.
The award can be renewed annually. The programme includes a co-curricular experience with an emphasis on leadership development and community service.