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Bowling Green State University gets largest single scholarship gift in Ohio history

Karl Smith
The Thompson Working Families Scholarship program will help increase higher ed access at BGSU.

Bowling Green State University is expanding its partnership with the Thompson Foundation to bring $150 million dollars in scholarships to students by 2035.

Through the Thompson Working Families Scholarship program, Bob and Ellen Thompson said they intend to give at least $121 million in scholarships to university students, with the possibility of extending the program with $30 million after 2035. This will be the largest single scholarship gift ever given in the state of Ohio, according to BGSU.

Scholarship funds come from the Thompson Foundation and the university’s dollar-for-dollar match. Recipients will get $11,000 each academic year. In return, they must complete community service hours and continually make progress toward their degree.

“Throughout the past 10 years, we have worked diligently with the Thompson Foundation to pressure-test and grow this first-of-its-kind public-private partnership aimed at accountability in achieving student success,” said BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers in a press release.

The partnership also requires the University to guarantee at least 80% of recipients graduate in four years or less.

“When we first created this scholarship program, we wanted to make sure the dollars were put to good use with accountability throughout the entire process," Bob Thompson said in a press release. "BGSU has proven this accountability approach works, and we are excited to publicly express our intentions to expand and extend this program into the next decade.”

The scholarship program started in 2014 to help students from working-class families attend college. More than 1,000 students are getting support for the 2023-2024 academic year. Among them is Summer Zeleznik, who's wrapping up her first year in the program. She said without it, she wouldn't be able to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

"Honestly this scholarship has helped me be able to go to college. I wouldn't have been able to go to college if it wasn't for them," she said.

Zeleznik said the scholarship program has connected with other recipients.

"It means truly being a family with one another and building strong community within the scholarship," she said.

The new funds are expected to increase the total number of recipients from 2,200 to 6,200.

The Thompsons also support the Robert and Ellen Thompson Military Scholarship program and the Sidney A. Ribeau President's Leadership Academy. They are doubling their support of the Leadership Academy from an annual cohort of 10 students to a cohort of 20.

Jenna Bal was a news intern at Ideastream Public Media from January 2023 to May 2024.