New Scholarships Helping Students Cross the Finish Line

Sep 25, 2017 3:56 PM

By Robert Spahr ’13

Imagine yourself in this position: You’ve just finished spring semester of your junior year at Frostburg State University. You really found your stride last year, and now there is a letter waiting at home that says you actually made the Dean’s List. Your family has never been prouder.

Then you go to register for fall and panic: a hold on your account. Despite your payment plan, part-time job and thrifty habits, you still owe $1,000 from spring. Fall registration is locked until it’s paid. Like 60 percent of Americans, your savings won’t cover an unexpected expense of even half that amount. Your family can’t afford to help, and borrowing is not an option.

What do you do? Where can you turn? For too many college students the only answer is to leave school.

As an undergraduate at Frostburg, FSU Foundation Board of Directors member Dr. Jessica L. Masser ’01 found herself in a similar position.

“I actually graduated from Frostburg in December of my senior year, on very short notice, since I had no further financial aid available for the spring semester,” Masser said, who was able to take advantage of surplus credit hours she had earned. “I luckily graduated early by changing majors and was able to still achieve my dream of attending medical school, but what if that wasn’t an option for these students?”

Likewise, Wayne Scott ’89 knows how close he came to that dilemma, recalling the struggles he faced as a first-generation college student who realized he was on his own after he was admitted to school.

“My parents said, ‘Congratulations, you got into school! We don’t have the money for this.’ So I had to work and take out loans,” he said.

With little margin for error, Scott often studied while his friends went out partying.

“When I graduated, I think I had $20 to my name. ... If I had messed up in one class and didn’t pass, I was going to have to take the whole next semester off to work to earn the money to come back,” he said.

When There’s Unfinished Business

With the knowledge that Masser’s and Scott’s stories are not all that rare, two new scholarships have been established to help students ensure that they don’t leave school with unfinished business.

The first Unfinished Business Scholarship arose this summer through FSU’s first crowdfunding campaign, which raised funds primarily from members of a private Facebook group, Fifty Shades of Frostburg (FSOF). FSOF began as a social group for Frostburg alumni but has since grown to more than 10,000 members, and the group has taken on several fundraising projects.

Soon after, Jess Masser and her husband, Dr. Brian D. Masser ’02, created an endowed fund that offers help to Frostburg students with proven academic abilities who cannot afford to re-register: the Masser Family Unfinished Business Scholarship. Endowed funds provide ongoing income to finance future scholarships.

FSU is special to the Massers. They met and fell in love as Bobcats, and they credit FSU for the educational foundation they needed to achieve their goals.

“I felt it was meant to be that we give that second chance to someone who was in the same situation I had been in,” said Jess. “The need to provide financial support to a student on the verge of leaving due to cost struck a nerve.” The Massers support two other funds, one for chemistry students planning on health care careers and one for the women’s basketball program.

Scott, an active member of FSOF, returned to speak at Career Day during Homecoming last year, and he became re-energized upon seeing the many advances on campus since he graduated. It hit home for Scott when the FSU Foundation approached FSOF about raising money to make sure students with financial hardships could stay enrolled at FSU.

Scott had seen the power of the “Shaders” in previous fundraising efforts, such as support for alumni families with medical expenses, those caught in the 2016 Ellicott City flood and for local causes like the Frostburg police and fire departments.

Scott spearheaded the crowdfunding effort for FSOF, posting numerous calls to action, links to the giving page, updates on fundraising progress and more, inspiring folks to give. In a month, Scott and the Shaders raised nearly $5,000 through gifts from FSOF members and other alumni, faculty, staff and friends of FSU.

“If we could even get just one student back, that would be an amazing thing,” Scott told himself throughout the process.

The pass-through funds did more than get just one student back. They kept three seniors enrolled and on track.

“I was extremely excited that the lives of three individuals have been changed,” said Scott.

FSOF’s life-changing effort also inspired the Massers. Jess learned about the Unfinished Business Scholarship after joining the FSU Foundation Board.

“We feel so lucky to be financially able to support someone in finishing their college degrees and achieving their goals in life,” said Jess. “We hope to encourage the students we help to give back, when they are able to, to the next generation of Bobcats!”

Another donor, Elizabeth Rhodes ’86, was with her husband, Jeff Rhodes ’88, when President Ron Nowaczyk spoke about the Unfinished Business Scholarship and the students it aimed to help.

“They had gone so far, wanted to finish, and just for financial reasons or reasons beyond their control, they were not able to finish their degree,” Elizabeth explained. “Jeff said, ‘We’ve got to do something about that. It’s not fair that those kids are trying so hard and can’t do it.’ ”

The “something” they did was make a significant contribution to support the Unfinished Business Scholarship.

“We understand the benefits and value in a Frostburg State education, so it means a lot to give someone else that opportunity,” said Elizabeth. “We’ve been very blessed, and it feels nice to pay it forward.”

Scott also hopes that Bobcats recognize the help they received as students and someday pay it forward. He referenced a quote from tennis player Althea Gibson that he shared during the crowdfunding drive: “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.”

When Bobcat alumni pay that help forward, tomorrow’s Bobcats find few limits to the accomplishments they can make.

To support the Unfinished Business Scholarship, visit or call the FSU Foundation at 301-687-4161.