Image Credit: Provided by Walla Walla University

NPUC Scholarships Help Increase WWU Enrollment

Dozens of students are able to pursue their college goals at Walla Walla University thanks to $2 million in scholarships provided by the North Pacific Union in two innovative programs: the Bright Future Scholarship and the NextGen Scholarship.

Making WWU possible for many more

“In 2021, we were seeing enrollment numbers decreasing as a result of the pandemic,” said Bill McClendon, NPUC vice president for administration. “As officers, we asked ourselves, ‘What can the NPUC do to help improve enrollment?’”

That question was the impetus behind the $1 million Bright Future Scholarship. To date, those funds have supported 64 students with funds spanning four years of support.

“I’m so thankful for the scholarship,” said a Bright Future recipient. “I wanted to attend WWU, but I didn’t think I could afford to go. Then my pastor told me about the scholarship funds from the NPUC. I came to visit the school and talked to one of the admissions counselors. They confirmed that I was able to qualify for the scholarship. I was so excited. I have found WWU to be a fantastic place to grow, not only in knowledge, but also spiritually. I really appreciate the religious atmosphere on campus.”

Recruiting our next teachers and pastors

While the Bright Future Scholarship initiative was open to a broad spectrum of first-time students of all majors, the NextGen Scholarship — established this year — was specifically created to help the NPUC recruit teachers and pastors.

“There's a real shortage of educators and pastors in our church,” said John Freedman, NPUC president. “As pastors and teachers retire or move, we are finding it challenging to fill vacancies.”

“As the school year was starting, we were actively looking for about six teachers to fill open positions across the union,” reported Becky Meharry, NPUC elementary education and curriculum director. “There just aren’t enough teachers to go around.”

The same is true for pastors. “As the average age of our pastoral pool climbs across the NPUC and pastors retire, there aren’t enough young, energetic pastors to replenish the losses,” stated César De León, NPUC vice president for Hispanic ministries and ministerial director. “We need pastors with a fresh vision and new skills to reach out to our pluralistic, syncretistic society.”

“The NextGen Scholarship is a forward-thinking investment in the future of the NPUC,” said McClendon. “We are planting seeds that will bear fruit as these students finish their education and find their callings to ministry here in the Northwest.”

The NextGen Scholarships combine with other funding sources to ensure that this year’s new theology and education students have 100% of their tuition covered. Thanks to this initiative, WWU has attracted more than 35 new theology and education students for fall 2022.

“We have a mix of students in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and a few as young as 18. There’s a broad mix of ethnicities, and several young women who have been called to ministry joining us as well,” reported Carl Cosaert, dean of the school of theology. He added that each new enrollee has a story of how God brought them to WWU. “One of our students is from the Hmong people from Southeast Asia. He had always wanted to be a pastor, but never had the opportunity. His daughter was planning to come to WWU. When he found out about the scholarship, he decided to become a student as well. So, father and daughter are both starting as freshmen on campus together.”

New students declaring education bring unique stories with them as well. “We have at least one couple where the husband is starting in our theology program as the wife is joining our education program. It’s great when a husband and wife can serve together as a ministry team in this way,” said Debbie Muthersbaugh, dean of the school of education and psychology. “We also have a student who will be the first in her family to pursue a college degree. She is transferring to WWU from a community college. She wanted to be a teacher and attend WWU, but didn’t think it could happen financially. When she found out about the NextGen scholarship, with tears in her eyes, she said, ‘I can’t believe that I’m going to be able to attend here!’”

“We are blessed to see so many new students entering the education program,” added Muthersbaugh. “I sense a renewed excitement among the students as I interview them. I’ve never had so many positive conversations. There’s a real joy in their voices. I believe that their excitement will create a positive ripple effect across campus.”

Established in early August, the $1 million NextGen Scholarship funds have already been fully allocated and there’s a waiting list of potential students wanting to become teachers or pastors. The NPUC just committed an additional $120,000, but this round of funding will not completely address the huge demand for future educators and pastors.

“We hope to fund many more scholarships as we move forward,” said Freedman. “These scholarship initiatives perfectly reflect our NPUC priorities of engaging young adults, advancing education and cultivating excellence in leadership. We want to partner with church members across the Northwest who have a passion to invest in the future leaders of our church.”

If you would like to help fund additional scholarships or the NPUC scholarship initiatives, please contact the NPUC treasury department at 360-857-7014. Your involvement will not only strengthen the future of a young adult, but also positively impact both WWU and the NPUC.

Featured in: September/October 2022