Washington College President Sheila Bair today announced that Bank of the West has made an $80,000 commitment to the College’s affordability and accessibility initiative, George’s Brigade. The bank’s contribution will help cover the costs of full tuition, fees, room, and board over four years for a first-generation student from California, who will matriculate this fall with the Class of 2020. The donation brings funding for George’s Brigade to just over $4 million in less than a year since the program’s inception.
“Bank of the West’s commitment to local communities’ long-term economic growth starts with education,” says President Bair. “The bank’s belief in education, as well as financial literacy, as the primary means to enable young people to move forward without excessive student debt fits perfectly with what we are working to achieve with George’s Brigade. We are deeply grateful for the bank’s support and look forward to this partnership.”
Last year, Bank of the West supported more than 600 nonprofit institutions to help people attain affordable housing, earn an education and job skills for a productive future, and develop small businesses and financial skills. In the last five years, the bank has contributed more than $28 million in philanthropic contributions, and in 2015 more than $1.2 million went toward education in financial literacy, starting in grades K-12.
George’s Brigade is one of President Bair’s first initiatives to improve college accessibility and tackle the problems of high student loan debt and college affordability. High-performing, first-generation students whose families would otherwise not have the resources to pay for a private liberal arts education will have the full cost of their education met, including room and board. If students wish to borrow for incidental expenses, the program requires that they limit their loans to $2,500 per year. This will allow them an excellent education and a strong start to their careers without large amounts of debt.
George’s Brigade also allows students to apply and be admitted in groups from the same community or school so that they have companions to share their transition to college life. The initiative includes special programming, events, mentoring, and career counseling for the enrolled students. The first group of George’s Brigade—16 students from across the country, three of them from California—is matriculating in August as part of the Class of 2020.
Every year, Washington College provides more than $23 million in grants and scholarships, with 90 percent of students receiving merit-based scholarships or need-based financial aid. Financial aid is especially vital for first-generation college students, whose families often require the most assistance in paying for their education.
“Lower-income, first-generation students attending college face two major challenges: the lack of financial resources, which too often leads to excessive debt loads, and lack of adequate social and academic support,” says President Bair. “With George’s Brigade, we can address these challenges and help ensure these talented students’ success.”
Since its inception in late 2015, George’s Brigade has received support from a variety of sources, including $1.68 million from H. Lawrence Culp, Jr., ’85, president of the Board of Visitors and Governors, $750,000 from The Hodson Trust, and additional funding from DLA Piper, M&T Bank, Avant, Heron Point of Chestertown, Host Hotels Resorts, Ms. Ann D. Horner ’80, Nina Houghton P ’85, GP ’11, Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Dr. Robert Kirkwood, M&A Enterprises, Mr. and Mrs. James Miller, Morgan Stanley & Company, Mr. and Mrs. Brian C. Rogers, Thomson Reuters, and Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Travieso ’66 ’66. Of the $4 million committed so far, $2.85 is endowed.
Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and 40 nations.
Bank of the West is a regional financial services company chartered in California and headquartered in San Francisco. Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which has a presence in 75 countries with 189,000 employees.