Battle Creek

WKKF Legacy Scholarship program changes could double the number of those receiving financial aid

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

Paying for childcare or transportation in addition to tuition and books can be a dealbreaker for would-be students seeking to further their education at Kellogg Community College, says Megan Russell Johnson, Program Officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Earlier this week, WKKF announced changes to the Legacy Scholars program it launched in 2005 that will allow applicants to use funds they receive to cover the cost of someone to care for their children or getting to and from school. Russell Johnson says these are among the expenses that are a reality for students facing significant challenges or barriers.

“It really was an intentional focus so the Legacy Scholars program becomes bigger and we can get financial assistance to more low-income, first generation and students of color,” she says. “We are hoping that more students see this as an opportunity to remove barriers to applying.

Megan Russell Johnson, Program Officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation“This is really about the next generation of students and how they will shape the future of our city. It allows students who face the most significant barriers to access higher education and technical opportunities in our community.”

Now students can combine Legacy Scholars support with other need-based financial aid, making it easier for them to cover food, transportation, housing and childcare costs, says Jenefer O’Dell, Senior program Officer with WKKF’s Battle Creek team. In addition, the one-time enrollment form for the scholarship is now only one page and contains no high school G.P.A. requirements or essays. And the application period now is open on a rolling basis. 

To understand the changes you need to understand the difference between first-dollar scholarships and last-dollar scholarships.  Last-dollar scholarships are designed to eliminate unmet need, or the gap between a student’s costs and financial resources for college, according to the National Scholarship Providers Association. 

The award amounts for first-dollar scholarships are not determined by assessing students’ other financial aid and scholarship awards, but are flat amounts or are determined according to the scholarship program guidelines, the Association says. Both models administer funds to eligible students that cover the direct costs of being a student, such as tuition and fees. 

In the past, the Legacy Scholars scholarships have been last-dollar awards. And students who received need-based financial aid often were not able to access Legacy Scholars funds. Under the new design of the program which Russell Johnson calls a first-dollar approach, students who receive need-based financial aid and other scholarships will be able to receive both. 

Brenda Hunt, president and CEO of Battle Creek Community Foundation“The past few years have placed a tremendous burden on our community as a whole, especially low-income students and students of color,” O’Dell says. “These changes to the Legacy Scholars award are one of the many ways we’re working to support the students who face the greatest barriers. With the removal of last-dollar restrictions, these students can now use Legacy Scholars in addition to grants and need-based financial aid they get through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).


Russell Johnson says changes to the scholarship are expected to double the number of students able to receive financial assistance as they pursue a degree or certification. Scholarships are available to eligible graduates of Battle Creek Public Schools, the Lakeview School District, and Calhoun Community High School.

“We think this change will be a great benefit to BCPS students, alongside the so many great things BCPS already offers to help students find a successful path to higher education or a career, like the Early-Middle College program, CNA and EMT certifications available through Career Academies, and job shadowing and internship opportunities that all BCCHS students receive,” says Kimberly Carter, Superintendent of BCPS. “We know changes to the program will make it possible for more students to use the scholarship, especially those who need financial assistance the most. We applaud the foundations for prioritizing education equity and look forward to seeing more BCPS students able to attend KCC for free with the Legacy Scholars Award."

In the past several years about 265 students per year apply and attend KCC from the eligible districts and about one-third of those students were not able to benefit from the award because they had other forms of financial aid, Russell Johnson says.

“With the change to first dollar, as well as improved outreach and support to enroll in the program, we expect to double the number of students that will benefit,” she says.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery TabronPrior to the shift in focus for the Legacy Scholars program, if a student received a need-based grant such as a Pell Grant that covered the cost of tuition and books, they wouldn’t qualify for the Legacy Scholarship, Russell Johnson says.

“At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we’ve always believed in the power of communities to forge solutions for the health, happiness, and well-being of their children,” says W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron in a press release. “We’re proud that our community is coming together to improve the Legacy Scholars program, helping open up new doors to career pathways for students to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the future of our Battle Creek community.”
The Legacy Scholars program has a current total endowment of $8 million, administered by the Battle Creek Community Foundation. Scholarships cover the cost of 62 credit hours at KCC or enrollment at an eligible local trade school or apprenticeship program and includes a $500 book stipend for each of four semesters of a student’s enrollments at KCC. Students have up to five years to use their Legacy scholarship, Russell Johnson says.
The total cost of the scholarship for 62 hours and book stipends is approximately $11,400 per student, she says.

The scholarship program was designed to help more students access higher education and career technical training. It is organized by the Battle Creek College Access Network and BCCF, in partnership with the WKKF, Battle Creek Public Schools, Lakeview Public Schools, Calhoun Community High School, Grand Valley State University, Michigan Works! and KCC.
“Our hope is that, with the improved Legacy Scholars award, more students will go on to a college or career, helping build a brighter and more stable future for themselves and for our community,” says Brenda Hunt, the president and CEO of Battle Creek Community Foundation in a press release. “Our goal with these changes is to allow support to reach those that need it most, making the program more equitable.”

Under the previous Legacy Scholars format, Russell Johnson says what partners and organizers were seeing is “Students who had the greatest financial need weren’t benefitting the most from the program because if you had a Pell grant and tuition and books were covered, you were not eligible for the Legacy scholarships. Legacy Scholars is now focused on students with the greatest need. We wanted to shift to make the program more equitable and accessible for them in achieving their educational goals.”

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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.