Establishing Scholarships

Public Education Trust (PET)
Establishment and Administration of PET Scholarships

The mission of PET

PET’s mission is to generate, monitor, and dispense funds; to provide financial support to programs for enrichment; and to encourage, recognize, and reward excellence in the students and staff of the Douglas County School System.

Overview of the Douglas County School System (DCSS)

The Douglas County School System’s mission is to provide a quality education for all students in a safe, supportive environment. The vision is to build a community of lifelong learners that become responsible individuals, independent thinkers, and productive citizens.

The school system is the 17th largest school district in the state of Georgia with 26,000 students and approximately 3,500 employees, making it Douglas County’s largest employer. There are 33 schools: 20 elementary schools, eight middle schools, five high schools, plus the Performance Learning Center and the College and Career Institute. The school system is accredited by AdvancED.

The growing need for privately-funded scholarships

Privately-funded scholarships are a great area of need: tuition continues to rise at universities and technical colleges, and many local families are still experiencing economic hardships from the downturn of recent years. Even for families not experiencing economic hardships, funding four years of tuition can be a daunting process, especially for families that have more than one child planning to attend college or university.

But it must be noted that scholarships are so much more than financial support. They provide deserved recognition to outstanding students, and they are a great honor to the recipients and their families. They also pay a fitting and lasting tribute to their namesake(s).

For the current 2017-2018 academic year, PET awarded $30,000 in scholarships to 42 students representing all five of our school system’s high schools. While we are proud of what is being accomplished, we declined 63% of applications, due primarily to lack of funds.  Last year, we declined 81% due to lack of funds.

How are scholarship criteria determined?

PET scholarships are for seniors graduating from one of the five high schools in the DCSS. Most scholarships  require students to have a 3.0 minimum grade point average. Applicants must identify the activities they have participated in at their school and in their community; identify any recognitions/honors/and awards received during high school; write a brief biographical sketch that includes a statement of why they would benefit from the scholarship; upload a high school transcript and letter of recommendation; and summarize significant financial needs that limit their ability to further their education. Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

Scholarships without too many restrictions are the most appealing to students and easiest to administer. Scholarships with numerous restrictions are difficult to advertise, intimidating to applicants, and often hard to award, as specified. Despite the great need for scholarships, it is possible for overly-restricted scholarships not to have qualified applicants in a given year. The school system averages almost 2,000 seniors each year. With this many seniors, it is difficult to pinpoint those who may fit narrowly-defined criteria.

Should proposed criteria not be in keeping with PET goals or be considered too restrictive to efficiently and effectively implement, the PET Board or Scholarship Committee by majority vote may decline administration of the scholarship.

Who selects PET’s scholarship recipients?

The Scholarship Committee at present is comprised primarily of PET Board Members who are a volunteer group of business, education, and community leaders. With the exciting growth of PET’s scholarship program, we have added several committee members who do not serve on our Board. These members are volunteers from the Douglas County community, including school system retirees, who have a passion for serving students and schools.

How many PET scholarships may one student receive?

PET prefers not to award more than one scholarship per student to spread the wealth to as many students as possible, though reserves the right to make an exception if the only qualified student for a particular fund has already received a scholarship. The Scholarship Committee awards scholarships with the greatest dollar value first.

Administration and stewardship of PET scholarships

PET advertises the availability of all scholarships to students through various avenues including its website, www.DouglasPublicEducationTrust.org; its Facebook page and other Facebook pages that serve the school system; DCSS Digest; e-Announcements to principals, counselors, and staff; automated phone calls to households with seniors; etc.

PET manages the online application process, selects recipients according to criteria, and applies scholarships toward tuition and fees at each recipient’s college or university of choice.

If a student cannot be identified for a particular scholarship in a given year, unused funds cannot be returned to the respective donor, but may be rolled over and awarded in a future year or used in another manner that supports PET’s mission and is agreed upon by PET and the donor.

When recipients are selected, PET notifies donors or donor representatives of the recipients and shares appropriate biographical information. Just as it is important for PET to let donors or donor representatives know who are receiving scholarships, it is important that the recipients know who are making their scholarships possible and a little about the scholarships’ namesake(s). PET provides that information to recipients.

Donors or donor representatives will be invited to present certificates of recognition to recipients at their respective high school’s spring awards event. By presenting the certificates of recognition, donors get to see tangible evidence of their gifts at work, and recipients get to say “thank you” in person.

Types of scholarships and naming opportunities for scholarships

There are two types of scholarship funds: endowed and non-endowed. With endowments, annual awards are given from interest earnings, leaving principal intact. As a result, these scholarships exist in perpetuity serving generations of students. Non-endowed scholarships are awarded annually until the fund is depleted or annual donations are no longer received for a particular scholarship. Scholarships may be renewable or non-renewable depending upon the wishes of the donor.

Scholarship naming opportunities are available for a minimum donation of $500, though $1,000 is the recommended minimum scholarship amount. To have a named scholarship offered in 2018, PET requests a written pledge stating the donor’s intent to fund the scholarship with the donation to come by December 30th, 2017. The pledge would allow PET to begin advertising the scholarship to students later this fall.

Scholarship timetable for the upcoming school year (2018-2019)

PET will accept online applications from February 1st to March 4th, 2018 for the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year. PET’s Scholarship Committee will have approximately one month to review applications.

Scholarships will be applied toward tuition and fees for Fall Semester 2018. Scholarships of more than $1,000 may be divided between Fall Semester 2018 and Spring Semester 2019.

How does one contribute to PET?

  • Checks made payable to PET may be mailed to 9030 Highway 5, Douglasville, GA  30134.
  • Credit cards donations may be made securely through PayPal on PET’s website, www.DouglasPublicEducationTrust.org.
  • DCSS staff may fulfill pledges through payroll deduction.
  • With some limitations, donors can deduct the full fair market value of long term appreciated securities (stocks, bonds, and/or mutual funds) that have been owned a certain amount of time, typically longer than one year, and that have increased in value. Capital gains taxes are usually avoided by donating appreciated securities.

PET is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization and all contributions are fully tax deductible. All donors will receive a thank you letter with appropriate information for receiving charitable deductions from the IRS. PET recommends that donors consult their tax advisors prior to making donations of securities.

PET will notify family members of gifts made in honor or memory of a loved one or that mark a special occasion.

What scholarships are currently offered by PET?

PET’s current scholarships can be found at http://douglaspubliceducationtrust.org/scholarships/.

 For more information, contact Lynn L. Murray, PET Executive Director, at 770-651-2124 (office), 770-883-6337 (cell), or lynn.murray@douglas.k12.ga.us.