I first came to South Bend in 1997 to study English as a second language. At that time, I thought the only master’s degree diploma that I would receive was the one I saw in my dreams. After coming from a middle class family in Colombia, where higher education is a privilege that only a few could afford, I thought I would never see an MBA diploma hanging on my wall.

However, I knew that education was important and I was determined. Through the financial aid I received from IU South Bend and other organizations, my dream became a reality. I encourage minority students to follow their dreams and go to college.

Back in July of 1997, when I first started the MBA program, IU South Bend had few scholarship options or programs for minority students. Today, four years after my graduation, there is a new Office of Student Scholarships and an Office of Campus Diversity with specific services for minority students.

As I continued in my studies, my savings and the contributions from my parents began to dwindle. I then went to the Office of International Student Services. Because I had done fairly well in my classes, I applied for an International Student Scholarship that initially paid for 50 percent of my tuition. I covered my living expenses and the cost of my books by working on campus as a part time security officer.

Later on, I realized I was eligible for another scholarship that would cover the remaining 50 percent of my tuition. I applied, obtained the scholarship and finished the program with several scholarships.

Today, there are a number of opportunities and scholarships at IU South Bend. According to the “Paying for College” booklet available at IU South Bend, the campus disburses more than $14 million in federal, state, university, and private aid. In fact, almost 50 percent of IU South Bend students receive some form of financial aid through loans, grants, scholarships or work study.

Here are a number of examples on how to fund a college career. IU South Bend participates in federal and state financial aid programs. There are campus scholarships, study abroad scholarships, and academic unit scholarships. The Office of Student Scholarships gave awards valued at $260,000 to 145 students last year. Academic units provide scholarships for students who major in particular subjects. The IUSB Alumni Association has funded 68 scholarships to students from 26 different high schools in Michiana. The Alumni Association supports both the Freshman Honors Program and nontraditional student scholarships.

Major scholarship donations are made by companies, community and business leaders. Some of these benefactors have expressed their interest in minorities and the importance of education in the growth of Hispanic, African American and other minority groups in Michiana. IU South Bend currently has three scholarships specifically directed to minority students: the Clark Equipment Minority Scholarship, the Underrepresented Student Scholarship, and the recently announced Opportunity Scholarship, established by Franklin D. Schurz Jr., for IU South Bend African American and Hispanic students. The Opportunity Scholarship provides four scholarships each year.

The Clark Equipment Minority Scholarship was awarded to two students this year. The $500 Underrepresented Student Scholarship is given to three students each year who are studying business and economics.

The state of Indiana also offers scholarships for minority students. For example, Minority Teacher and Special Education Scholarships are given to students seeking a degree in special education, and another scholarship is available to minorities who are studying for certification in occupational or physical therapy.

A college education is sometimes seen as an impossible and expensive goal, but is definitely one of the best investments you can make. I did it and today I am working with the IUSB Alumni Association Board to help make a college education possible for others.

College graduates obtain not only better paying jobs, but also a general education and knowledge and skills necessary for their future.

Students should first apply for admission to IU South Bend, or the college of your choice.

Secondly, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA). The form is available at high schools and all college campuses. This form determines your eligibility for scholarship and aid.

Then the doors to education will open when you research what scholarships are available.

Be aware of financial aid and scholarship deadlines. Talk to a high school counselor, read IU South Bend’s “Paying for College” booklet and ask questions at the financial aid office.

My dream came true and my diploma proudly hangs on my wall.

Jorge H. Marin ­ 10/12/03