THE PROOF IS in the statistics: Those who earn a college degree are more likely to have higher earnings potential. In fact, the United States Census Bureau reports individuals who achieve the following degree levels earned these median annual salaries: PhDs, $100,000 or more; masters, $63,000; bachelors, $55,700; and associates, $42,000. Those armed with only a high school diploma: $32,500. That lower figure is, of course, compounded over a lifetime. High school diploma people can expect to earn about $1.3 million during their working years, which is about $1 million less, on average, than those with college degrees. This begs the question: Is investing in higher education (even at a cost that can be as much as $300,000 over four years) worth it? The answer appears to be yes.
Numerous studies also show that people with college degrees are likely to experience more job opportunities (60 percent of today’s jobs in the U.S. require higher education), greater job satisfaction and increased job stability. The latter two translate into an increased likelihood of personal happiness. Last but not least, people with higher learning degrees are better able to provide greater benefits to their families, especially their children. Studies have shown that children in households where one or both parents possess a college degree are themselves more likely to earn a degree of higher learning. It’s a trickle-down effect that can influence the well-being of future generations.
However, the cost to obtain such degrees is rising exponentially. According to a recent New York Times article, tuition costs have increased three percent to five percent per annum over the last decade. The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–15 academic year was $46,272 at private col- leges and $23,410 for an in-state public college. Tack on costs for housing, meals, books, supplies and trans- portation, and it’s an expense that many families cannot afford without substantial financial assistance. Hence, the estimated $1 trillion in student loan debt—a bubble that’s itching to burst.
As a result, millions of Americans seeking to send their children and/or them- selves to institutes of higher learning are increasingly in need of desperate financial assistance. Enter the Two Ten Footwear Foundation Scholarship Program. Since 1969, Two Ten has awarded nearly $20 million to 6,353 students. In 2015, the footwear industry’s charitable organization awarded a total of $870,000 in scholarship funds to 310 students nationwide. “These scholarship funds have been provided by hundreds of generous donors over the years who all know how important a college education is,” says Debbie Ferrée, chief mer- chandising officer of DSW and chairperson of the Two Ten Education Committee. “Today, as footwear families face tough challenges to afford university, the Two Ten Scholarship Program is an incredible benefit that is valued at $12,000 per student for a four-year degree.”
Ferrée has witnessed the transformational nature of higher education for many years, but it was during Two Ten’s board meeting this fall when a recent recipi- ent explained eloquently how much the opportunity means. The woman—the first in her family to attend college—told the board that the benefit of a college education for her isn’t about driving expensive cars or eating in fancy restaurants. Rather, what is most important is that earning her degree as a public health practitioner will enable her to make a positive dif- ference in this world—a lesson taught to her by her parents. She added that she wants to be a role model to her younger brothers and community. “I was so impressed by her drive and her commitment to getting an education,” Ferrée says. “That’s why I firmly believe we are doing great work to help change shoepeople’s lives.”
Neal Newman, president of Two Ten, can relate. With one daughter currently in col- lege and a second one about to enter next year, the intense pressure of tuition is hit- ting him hard. Newman says the costs are astronomical, and that’s one reason why he is committed to getting the word out to the entire industry that Two Ten is here to help alleviate the financial burden for as many of those who need it most. “I want Two Ten to be involved in every single footwear family’s decision to send their children to college, and to help every foot- wear employee obtain a college degree,” he says.
Indeed, Two Ten scholarships are open to all footwear employees and their families for two- and four-year undergraduate programs. They are awarded based on financial need, academic ability and personal promise. The only problem: More people need to know this lifeline of funding is available. That’s why Two Ten is partnering with Footwear Plus for the 2015–16 scholarship year to get the word out to as many industry members as possible, particularly independent retailers as only three percent of its scholarship applicants comes from that tier. “We have long recognized the importance of independent retailers in our industry, and we know that Footwear Plus will help us reach a broader cross-section of independent retailers coast-to-coast,” Ferrée says, noting that another goal is to get more shoepeople currently employed to take advantage of its scholarships. “This year, 27 percent of our scholars are cur- rently employed in the industry. We would like to see that increase substantially over the next few years with Footwear Plus involved.”
The current scholarship application period kicked off at the beginning of this month and is open until Mar. 31, 2016. Those interested can log onto twoten.org/what-we-do/sholar- ships for details and to apply. In addition to the aforementioned applicant parameters (financial need being the highest criteria), Newman notes that several new program initiatives are being introduced this year, including specialized funds for employees and children of employees of inde- pendent retailers (sponsored by Footwear Plus), members of National Shoe Travelers organization, students studying footwear design and Footwear Warriors, which is targeted at veterans who work in the industry. In addition, Newman notes that with 40 percent of this year’s recipients being the first in their families to attend college, Two Ten is raising $50,000 earmarked for its First in Family Scholarship Fund in order to extend the program.
Ferrée is excited about the new scholarship opportunities for this year, noting that another high priority is improving the graduation rates of its scholars. “We are doubling down on our commitment to supporting them through their educational journey and beyond, be it toolkits, moral support, additional financial support for things like books or tutors, and internships at footwear companies,” she explains, adding that Two Ten is also looking at ways it can increase access to higher education for more industry members even if it doesn’t involve a scholarship. “For example, we are introducing models of satellite and online college degree programs to a group of companies who are eager to build talent and promotable skills within their workforce,” she says.
It goes without saying that the Two Ten Scholarship Program is always open to receive donations. The more that is donated, the more people Two Ten can help fulfill their higher education dreams. “It’s heartbreaking to know that there are students who dream of a college education—who come from families that cannot contribute anything to tuition—that were quali- fied but the funds ran out this year,” Ferrée says. “It’s why we are actively raising an additional $2 million in funds for our endowed permanent scholarships, for a total of 30 additional schol- arships a year.”
To make a donation to Two Ten’s scholarship fund, or any of its charitable initiatives, log onto twoten.org/donate.
Meet these 2015 Two Ten Footwear Foundation scholarship winners: a diverse demographic all thankful for the financial support provided to pursue their career dreams.
Evan Bellas, 18, Dexter, MI
Attends: Eastern Michigan University
Major: Computer Science
Bellas hopes to become a software developer. He found out about the Two Ten scholarship through his father, Rich, who co-owned Van Boven Shoes in nearby Ann Arbor for 30-plus years. While his father sold his ownership stake in the store, he still works there and in the industry he loves.
Bellas applied for many other scholarships, but only received one from Two Ten. “These Two Ten funds have helped me greatly,” he says, noting the fact that it’s renewable for four years has been a real plus. “The footwear community is great—it’s here for me and others in the industry.” Bellas adds that his father is incredibly proud of the scholarship: “He was the first to tell me about it. He loves the shoe industry and all the connections he has made over the years.”
Shamour Talbert, 18, Sharpsville, PA
Attends: Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Major: Biology with a concentration in Medical Technology
Talbert wants to become a medical technologist who analyzes cells to check for diseases and reports findings to the doctors so they can give diagnoses and treatment options. She found out about Two Ten’s scholarship program through her mother, who has worked at Reyers in Sharon, PA, for 28 years.
Talbert couldn’t believe that she had been awarded the scholarship, having applied and been turned down by
so many up to that point. Two Ten is the only scholarship she has received. “I was in shock and so very thankful,” she says. “I couldn’t attend Clarion—or college, for that matter—without it.” Talbert, the first in her family to attend college, notes that her mother talks about the shoe business all the time. “She has a network of friends and co-workers that has been together for years,” she says.
Mary Klaire Carbonie, 18, Birmingham, AL
Attends: Troy University
Major: Early Childhood Education
After earning her degree, Carbonie’s dream is to travel to Peru or Guatemala to teach in an orphanage. She has already visited Peruvian orphanages with her church group and currently sponsors a boy. Her mother, Marilyn, would like her daughter to stay closer to home and teach inner-city children in their hometown and visit Peru or Guatemala in the summers to work in the orphanages.
The Carbonie family is no stranger to the Two Ten scholarship program as all three of its daughters have been award recipients. Father, Ken, is a thirdgeneration cobbler who owns Cahaba Heights Shoe Repair in Vestavia, AL. He first learned of the program through his leather supplier, Southern Leather Co. in Memphis, TN. “The scholarship is a great resource for all of our daughters to get to college,” he says, noting this was the only scholarship his youngest daughter received. “It sure does make a difference, and every bit helps. We are very grateful. We feel all of our daughters will make a positive difference in the world.”
“Two Ten has blessed both my sisters and now myself,” Carbonie says. “I couldn’t be more thankful for the generosity and support given to our family from the Two Ten Foundation.” Carbonie cites her father’s hard work and dedication as inspiration. “I’ve worked with my parents in the shop quite a few times and loved it,” she says. “The interaction with customers is my favorite part because people are so nice and friendly, which makes the job easier.”
Eric Armitage, 20, Barneveld, NY
Attends: SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome
First stop upon graduating college for Armitage is taking the CPA exam in order to land a job in the tax field. He found out about the Two Ten Scholarship Program through his manager and district manager at Super Shoes in nearby Trenton, where he has worked for more than three years. He says the application process wasn’t difficult, which he appreciated. “I tried for other scholarships, but they were very difficult to apply for or obtain,” he says. “The Two Ten one was easy to fill out— almost like they wanted to make it easy for shoepeople to apply.” He adds, “It seemed almost too good to be true when I found out I was getting the Two Ten scholarship.
As a senior associate at Super Shoes (similar to the duties of an assistant manager), Armitage describes his job as being like a renaissance man. “I do a little bit of everything,” he says. “It’s a really nice place to work.” Armitage is paying for college on his own and the accountant-in-training doesn’t want college loans hanging over his head. “The scholarship will ensure that I am debt-free upon graduation,” he says. “I couldn’t do it without Two Ten.”
Stephanie Dwyer, 36, Franklin, WI
Attends: Milwaukee Area Technical College
Major: Business Management
Dwyer, who is going to school parttime at night, works in the IT department at a local Foot Locker and hopes to move into its IT management upon graduation. She found out about the scholarship program after seeing a poster hanging on the wall in the staffroom. Foot Locker is a major supporter of all of Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s programs and services.
“I was extremely excited to find out that I was receiving the Two Ten scholarship,” Dwyer says. “This is my second year getting this scholarship, and it is the only reason I can go to college.” Dwyer is the first in her family to attend college. “Without the support of Two Ten, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dreams of advancing in my field of work.” She adds. “I want to give Two Ten a huge thank you for believing in me.”