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UofL passes $750 million in fundraising effort

Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A new multi-million-dollar infusion of donations to help pay for student scholarships helped push the University of Louisville's capital campaign past the $750 million mark as school leaders set their sights on reaching a $1 billion goal in the next year and a half.

The fundraising campaign that began in 2007 got a boost Tuesday with a campus announcement that a fresh $6 million will be directed toward scholarships. Half that amount will come from the Henry Vogt Foundation and its president, Henry V. Heuser Jr. The other $3 million will come in matching gifts from other donors, and $2 million has been raised so far, said UofL President James Ramsey.

"There's no question that the cost of higher education is an issue, so we need — and a major part of our capital campaign — is support for student financial aid," Ramsey said.

As a result of the Vogt gift, UofL's Hallmark scholars program — one of the most generous on campus — will be renamed the Henry Vogt Scholarships. Kentucky students with a 3.75 GPA in high school and scores of at least 30 on the ACT or 1320 on the SAT are eligible to apply for the awards, which include full tuition and an annual $3,500 educational allowance.

The $6 million in gifts will enable more students to receive the scholarships, said Jenny Sawyer, UofL's executive director of admissions.

More than 300 UofL students are currently receiving that scholarship, which has become much more competitive, she said.

"When we started the program, we were able to award every single person who applied and met the criteria," Sawyer said. "This past year, we admitted over 700 students into our freshman class who met those criteria, and we could award only about 130 of them."

Sean Butterbaugh, a pre-med student majoring in French and biology, said the availability of scholarships is "a huge deciding factor" for students in choosing a college.

"That's how we can get the best and brightest students to the University of Louisville," the Paducah junior said.

Heuser said he was motivated to direct his donation after hearing that many talented UofL students are unable to get scholarship assistance. "And I thought, that's what we want to do," he said.

Heuser's family and the Vogt Foundation have a long history of giving to UofL, with past donations helping engineering and cancer research.

UofL initially set a $750 million goal by 2013 when it launched its current fundraising campaign in 2007. By 2011, UofL's trustees raised the goal to $1 billion and extended the campaign until July 2014. The campaign has now surpassed $755 million, university officials said.

"We'll hit the $1 billion," Ramsey said. "We'll in fact do everything we can to make sure that we not only hit it, but we exceed it."

Don Rizzo, associate vice president for development, estimated that about one-fourth of the $1 billion will go for student scholarships if the university reaches its fundraising goal. Other amounts will go for research, to upgrade buildings and construct new facilities, salary enhancements for top-notch faculty and operations, he said.

"We'll be targeting more donations for scholarships in the stretch run of our comprehensive campaign," Ramsey said.