Helios Foundation gives $2M boost for UA scholarships

February 23, 2009

By hammersmith

Helios Foundation gives $2M boost to UA scholarship program

Phoenix Business Journal – by Angela Gonzales

Helios Education Foundation is offering some relief as the Arizona Legislature slashes university budgets.  The Phoenix-based foundation committed $2 million to the Arizona Assurance scholarship program at University of Arizona in Tucson.  The scholarship package is aimed at Arizona students whose families earn an adjusted gross income of $42,400 or less per year.

The boost comes as university officials mull whether to discontinue the Arizona Board of Regents High Honors Tuition Scholarship, which provides four years of financial assistance for students who excel on all components of the AIMS test and maintain A’s and B’s throughout high school.

In an announcement a few weeks ago, Arizona State University President Michael Crow said the AIMS scholarship would be discontinued in an effort to cut costs.

However, that decision requires approval by regents, said Johnny Cruz, spokesman for UA. He said UA officials also are in discussions with regents on the matter.

Paul Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation, said the $2 million gift will help continue UA’s Assurance scholarship program started last year.

“Until they are able to raise all those resources, our gift is helpful today to provide financial assistance that will carry them through on a year-long basis until they can raise resources and make this a permanent fixture,” Luna said.

Helios was created in 2004 with more than $500 million through the sale of Southwest Student Services Corp., a student loan company. Its goal is to give $20 million every year to educational programs in Arizona and Florida.

The inaugural class of 600 Arizona Assurance scholars is in its second semester at UA, where all college costs are covered, including tuition, books, and room and board.

That scholarship program had been funded by various sources, including private donations and existing UA financial aid, Cruz said.

“The timing is really coincidental to what’s happening in our economy,” Cruz said. “However, it certainly is especially timely considering the economic situation in our country and state.”

This Helios donation follows on the heels of a $6.5 million endowment for the Translational Genomics Research Institute to underwrite a summer scholars program.

Luna said Helios is talking to other organizations about grants, but it is too early to disclose any names. “We have a couple approved from the board but haven’t put together finalized contracts with the other organizations,” he said.

For more: www.helios.org.