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Pay It Forward

As the cost of college tuition continues to rise, scholarship support has become one of SUNY Potsdam’s greatest fundraising priorities. Most SUNY Potsdam students require financial assistance to pursue their degrees, and donor-funded scholarships help to bridge students’ financial gaps.

In 2016, four alumni – Mary Helander ’83, Amy Kellogg ’99, Sean Leous ’86 and Rita Schwartz ’58 – recognized that many Potsdam students’ level of financial need surpasses that available to them through traditional forms of aid. In response, they created the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program to help any student who is facing financial challenges that cannot be met through traditional funding assistance.

The Pay It Forward name celebrates the opportunity for alumni to support the program in honor of how their education at SUNY Potsdam contributed to their success, thereby “paying it forward” to current and future students. The donors also hope that Pay It Forward recipients will one day choose to give back to the fund themselves.

Today, there are three ways you can give to the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program:

Support a Student Immediately

By making a gift of any size to the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program, you ensure that 100% of your gift will be awarded to students within the next year. Your gift provides the flexibility to support students throughout the year when unexpected financial circumstances arise.  A gift of any size is welcomed and will be combined with other gifts to help students in need.

Fill a Student’s Financial Gap

The average financial “gap” remaining after a SUNY Potsdam student has exhausted all other forms of aid is $2,500. You can guarantee a student is able to continue their education by bridging that gap for a year. With a gift of $2,500, you are able to designate one criterion of eligibility (e.g., “North Country resident,” “geology major”) and the College will identify a recipient to receive your support.

Impact Future Generations of Potsdam Students

With a gift of any size to the Pay It Forward Scholarship endowment, you are investing in the future success of the program and our future students. Each year, the endowment generates an annual distribution of income that is then awarded to students. Your gift will increase the capacity of the scholarship by allowing the College to award more funds in the years to come. 

I have worked as hard as I could to be where I am with the odds stacked against me. There were times when I believed that attending college wouldn’t be possible, but thanks to this scholarship my dreams are becoming more and more possible.

Wilber Parada ’20, Pay It Forward Scholarship Recipient
Learn More About Wilber's Story

Additional Information

For more information about the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program, other ways you can help students in need or to establish your own named scholarship at SUNY Potsdam, contact the College Advancement Office at (315) 267-3253 or