BC Foundation Receives Landmark Donation: Scholarship Funding to Expand

In late November, a Bellevue resident and philanthropist pledged a gift of $3,000,000 to the Bellevue College Foundation. As the largest individual donation in foundation history, it has allowed for the creation of an endowed scholarship fund.

The Bellevue College Foundation, established in 1978, is a non-profit organization with the mission to assist students in their educational journey. The intention of the donor’s gift was to increase equitable access for students in pursuit of their higher education. In 2023, an estimated $659,000 in scholarship funding was distributed by the foundation; this gift is anticipated to increase BC scholarship funding by $100,000 annually.

The Bellevue College Foundation impacts students, first and foremost. With varied programs, awards, innovation grants and safety-net funds, they touch every aspect of campus.

“When you have a gift of three million dollars that’s going to cycle-off up to a hundred thousand dollars a year, over time… That’s an immediate impact, on dozens of students,” said BC Foundation’s Executive Director Johnson. “To add that to the already incredible generosity of our other donors and investors — it’s a mindblowing change.”

“Scholarships,” she continued, “are probably the most impactful thing that we do.”

At Bellevue College, there are two types of scholarships offered: current-use scholarships and endowed scholarships.

An endowed gift to the foundation is a donation subsequently put into their investment portfolio to grow and is left untouched. After remaining in the portfolio for five years, a gift of $25,000 would generate enough interest to pay out $1,000, perpetually, every single year.

The donation of $3,000,000 is unending, given that an endowed gift itself is not spent but rather its accumulated interest. Alternatively, a current-use scholarship is a donation that is turned immediately and directly into scholarship dollars.

Scholarship support may also be issued for expenses incurred during placements or as fee waivers for bachelor’s programs, among other resources provided by the foundation.

“We have students who are refugees, who have found a home here — while they fight with international borders, to get family here. And we provide them food, or housing,” Johnson shared. “Or a scholarship that lets a parent, who never finished their degree, get a professional job.”

When asked what drew her to the Bellevue College Foundation, Johnson gave context to the passion behind her work by relaying details of her own story.

“I was expelled, and then I was a single mom at twenty,” said Johnson. “Married the greatest guy in the world… We worked really, really hard to raise our family in Bellevue.”

At 37 years old, Johnson began taking classes at Bellevue College. After receiving her transfer degree, a counselor directed her to the University of Washington. She was initially hesitant.

Johnson recalled saying: “‘I’m thirty nine years old. I’ve got three kids, a full time job… That’s not what happens.’” The counselor assured her that it does. “I ended up going to the University of Washington, and I triple-majored.” She went on to be the Valedictorian of her class.

“Bellevue College changed my life,” said Johnson. “It created ripples for my family. Being back here is just a privilege, beyond measure.”

Scholarships offered by the Bellevue College Foundation continue to make such change and empowerment possible for students.

Applications are now open for merit-based and need-based student scholarships for the 2024–2025 calendar year. All current and prospective students are eligible to apply. Applications are due March 28, 2024.