2015 was a benchmark year for Scholarship America. Our organization continued in its core mission to design and deliver world-class scholarship and education assistance programs -- and we also expanded our efforts into the realm of public policy and advocacy.
In 2015, we hosted our first national awards event, honoring Katie Couric, Donald Graham and the GM Foundation for their work on behalf of students. And we established new relationships with the White House, Congress and education policy leaders, ensuring our work will be part of the national conversation on higher-ed financing for years to come.
Here are just a few of the big moments in our year.
The 2015 State of the Union focused heavily on higher education, and Scholarship America spent 2015 expanding our efforts in Washington; in January, we joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute advisory board.
The Scholarship America Dream Award, in its second year, provided growing, renewable scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per year to "twelve students [who] represent the best of American perseverance and the dream to make a better life."
Scholarship America hosted our first national education awards dinner in Washington, D.C. Katie Couric, Donald Graham and the GM Foundation were honored for their work on behalf of students at this memorable event.
Scholarship America's Policy & Advocacy department developed our first ever detailed public policy agenda, identifying three key priorities: expanding public-private partnerships, ensuring a student-centered financial aid system and creating more institutional transparency and accountability regarding financial aid.
At the urging of Scholarship America and other organizations, President Obama signed into law a major change to the FAFSA process. Thanks to a concerted bipartisan effort, families can now import "prior-prior year" tax data from the IRS and start filling out their application in October -- three months earlier than before.
Scholarship America joins as a founding member of the College Advisory Board, an independent group created to support the #FreeCommunityCollege proposal and oversee the nationwide Heads Up America campaign.
Scholarship America CEO Lauren Segal retired, and we welcomed Robert C. Ballard as the organization's new head. Ballard, a longtime volunteer and supporter of Scholarship America and Dollars for Scholars, previously served as Senior Vice President of Philanthropy at USA Funds.
Small financial grants at the right time can make a huge impact on students -- and keep them in school when they're at the highest risk of dropping out. Scholarship America and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab produced the first nationwide survey of emergency aid programs, and outlined best practice for expanding them to more schools
Scholarship America has been rated a 4-Star Charity by Charity Navigator. We believe in fiscal responsibility and transparency -- and students rely on supporters like you. A gift to Scholarship America ensures we can help more students earn more degrees now, and into the future.