Montana Access Scholarship Program Matches Gifts for Need-Based Scholarships

Sept. 10, 2019

MISSOULA – More than 1,000 University of Montana students could receive need-based financial support through the Montana Access Scholarship, an initiative established through a 2019 appropriation from the Montana Legislature. Donors making a gift through the initiative will double their investment thanks to state dollars that match their donation dollar-for-dollar.

In April, the 66th Montana Legislature approved $2 million for state need-based student aid that, when matched one-to-one by private donations from each campus’ fundraising foundation, will provide a total of $4 million in financial aid for students across the Montana University System over the next two years.

As campus foundations receive donations for this program, the State of Montana, through the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, will match those funds up to the cap amounts specified for each campus. Distribution of the state funds is conditional on a one-to-one match from private donors. 

As UM-Missoula and Missoula College students are eligible to receive more than $1 million in scholarships through the program, provided that the University of Montana Foundation receives $529,000 in philanthropic gifts directed to this initiative by March 2020.

“Every year, private donations provide approximately $5 million in scholarships for UM students,” said Cindy Williams, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization that inspires philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM. “The Montana Access Scholarship provides an opportunity to increase by $1 million the scholarships available to deserving Montana-resident students over the next two years.”

As UM works to increase its in-state graduates, it is committed to empowering students with limited resources to succeed in their dreams of earning a college degree. Gifts to the Montana Access Scholarship program provide need-based funding to those students. The scholarships will be awarded to Montana residents who meet the established criteria, which includes being enrolled full-time, demonstrating financial need on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and pursuing a certificate, associate degree or first bachelor’s degree at UM-Missoula or Missoula College campuses. Recipients who are 25 years or older, pursuing a certificate or two-year program and enrolled part-time are also eligible.

Campus financial aid offices across the Montana University System will award $1,000 academic scholarships ($500 each semester) up to their approved allocation amount. Students may receive a Montana Access Scholarship both years as long as they continue to meet the criteria.

 “A $500 scholarship can make the difference between a student with financial need taking time off from school or continuing from one semester to the next,” said Cathy Cole, UM vice president for enrollment and strategic communication. “The Montana Access Scholarships will enable more students to stay on their path to career success.”

Montana Access Scholarship awards will be distributed based on financial need and other defined criteria. Gifts can be in any amount and from any interested donor, including individuals, families, businesses and private foundations. To give to the program and learn more, visit  

Gifts to the Montana Access Scholarship program are part of Campaign Montana, the comprehensive, seven-year fundraising campaign that is inspiring $400 million in philanthropic giving to UM through 2020. Donors will help achieve UM’s vision of a university that puts student success at the forefront, driving excellence and innovation in teaching, research and learning. The campaign is managed by the UM Foundation.

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