Central Scholarship Bureau eases rules, expands college financial aid program Nonprofit group plans to lend extra $100,000

June 06, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

If you're short of financing your college education by as much as $10,000, someone is looking to help you.

That would be Helen London, executive director of a private Baltimore agency that has announced it is expanding its last-resort, interest-free loan program.

Since 1924, the Central Scholarship Bureau has lent more than ** $4.5 million to 5,000 Maryland college and graduate students. Now, it has liberalized its criteria and will award an additional $100,000 this year -- for a total of $360,000.

In subsequent years, the bureau intends to award more -- reaching a total of $500,000 in annual loans by 2000.

"College costs are so high, we need to help students more," London said. "The kids and the older students are counting on us. We're the last stop for many. They think they have no other place to go."

London said a more aggressive fund-raising program, generous giving by loyal alumni, a 98 percent loan-repayment rate and fortunate investments have swelled the private nonprofit organization's endowment from $1 million to $1.5 million in the past few years.

The bureau's new rules for loans are:

Instead of only Baltimore and Baltimore County residents being eligible, the program is now open to students living in Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll and Harford counties.

Instead of family income of less than $50,000 -- with an additional allowance of $5,000 for each dependent child -- applicants can come from families that make as much as $75,000, with an additional allowance of $10,000 for each dependent child in a post-secondary school program.

Instead of a maximum cumulative loan of $6,000 for undergraduates and $8,000 for graduate students, the total loan now may be as much as $10,000 for undergraduate and graduate students.

Applicants must first have obtained financing in loans, grants and scholarships from family, banks, colleges, federal, state and other sources. A bureau scholarship never pays for an entire education, and repayment is expected within five years after college, but the bureau is lenient on that, London said.

150 new loans

Half the bureau's applicants are middle class and half are poor, she said. In all, the bureau will give out about 150 new loans this year -- bringing the total of those it is aiding to about 600.

Even if applicants don't get loans from the bureau, they may get advice on finding other possible sources of revenue, London said. An Internet Web site -- http: //fastweb.com -- lists 375,000 scholarships, fellowships, loans and grants, she said.

With the help of a $7,000 loan from the bureau, Gail Schnitzer, 57, of Pikesville, a single mother with two grown children, became an occupational therapist last year after years of unsatisfying business jobs. She said the loan changed her life.

Schnitzer got a bachelor of science degree from Towson University last year, and began a job at a rehabilitation and nursing center. She works with stroke patients and others with pulmonary disease, Lupus and arthritis.

"I love it, it's such a wonderful feeling" said Schnitzer. "I heard about the bureau, it was such a pleasure doing business with them. I couldn't have made it. I needed the extra push so I could eat. It would have taken longer to finish without them."

'Thank you for helping'

Another recipient, Gabriel Kroiz, 33, of Baltimore sent London a letter after he graduated from college: "Thank you for helping an old migrant farmer get through school."

Kroiz worked his way through the Rhode Island School of Design, partly by picking blueberries in Maine and receiving $6,000 from the bureau, a loan almost paid off. He is an architectural designer here, and has given the bureau a drawing in appreciation.

The bureau's financial aid is considered unequaled in Maryland because of its interest-free loans, tradition of social concern and lack of bureaucratic procedures. Bureau officials say they receive no support from government, corporations or large foundations.

The service was born when money was left over after the Hebrew Orphan Asylum closed in 1921. Moses Rothschild, a local insurance man, and about 25 friends set up a last-resort fund without interest for needy Jewish students. Many recipients have left money to the bureau in their wills.

"Some people have contributed to us for 50 or 60 years," London said.

The service was exclusively for Jewish students from 1924 to 1936, but in 1936 it opened its doors to non-Jewish students. In recent years, half the recipients have been Jewish. Recipients include students in their 30s to 50s. Up to 20 percent of recipients are minorities.

London, director since 1990, said she has a goal for the agency's lending: "I don't know what the board would say, but I'd like the agency someday to go to $1 million a year."

Information: (410) 415-5558; e-mail csbrols.com; or send mail to 1700 Reisterstown Road, Suite 220, Baltimore 21208.

Pub Date: 6/06/98

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