Applications for this year’s Denver-based Daniels Fund scholarship dropped by several hundred over last year, a change officials believe is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The private charitable foundation has “no definitive prognosis” for the decline but “we would expect a big part of that was probably due to COVID,” fund spokesman Bruce Wilmsen said.
The scholarship program, which pays for educational expenses for high school seniors to attend any accredited, nonprofit college in the United States, received 1,991 completed applications this year, Wilmsen said, compared with 2,265 last year.
Some students say they are hesitant to commit to entering college next semester, even as schools have announced in recent weeks plans for more classes to be held in-person in the fall and more normal operations.
Of this year’s 135 Colorado recipients, eight students are from the Pikes Peak region.
• Austin Hartley Crawford, Coronado High School
• Sarah Wuellner, Cripple Creek-Victor Junior-Senior High School
• Nasiya Yolani Bruno Munn, Fountain-Fort Carson High School
• Joselyne Cimpaye, Harrison High School
• Koleman Edward Gee, Peyton High School
• Gracie Nichole Farmer, Pine Creek High School
• Elise Clark, Sand Creek High School
• Juan Bustamante, The Vanguard School
Last year, 16 area students were awarded scholarships.
A total of 240 high school seniors from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming won the award, which is based on demonstration of strength of character, leadership potential, community service, academic performance and promise, well-roundedness and emotional maturity.
Wilmsen said such qualities and values were important to the fund’s founder, Bill Daniels. The late cable television pioneer and owner of professional sports teams died in 2000.
Daniels' charitable foundation also awards grants to community organizations in eight areas of focus, including drug and alcohol addiction, education reform and aging. It also promotes an ethics initiative for schools, businesses and law enforcement agencies.
The scholarship application is revised annually, Wilmsen said.
After public complaints were made in 2019, questions about flag burning and whether government should decide how business profits are distributed were removed from the scoring that year and from the application in 2020, he said.
This year’s application “did include some questions that reflect Bill Daniels’ patriotism and love of the free enterprise system,” Wilmsen said.
Other changes to the program include setting a dollar amount of up to $25,000 per recipient per year for the scholarship, he said. The money pays for educational expenses for four years of college, after other scholarships, financial aid and the expected family contribution have been applied. In the past, no exact amount of how much the scholarship covers had been given.
“This change was adopted to simplify our payment structure and allow us to serve as many students as possible with the scholarship program,” Wilmsen said.
Also, a requirement that recipients work during the first year of college has been changed to be “strongly encouraged,” he said. And enrichment programs to teach soft skills that weren’t necessarily learned in high school also have been added.
Including this year's recipients, about 4,600 students have received a Daniels scholarship, with awards totaling more than $220 million.