SMPA extends relief fund for students in financial need

Media Credit: Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor

Roberts said he hopes the fund can help students facing financial hardship to remain in school.

Updated: Sept. 13, 2022 at 12:16 p.m.

School of Media and Public Affairs journalism professor Steve Roberts continues to honor the legacy of his late wife Cokie Roberts, a veteran broadcast journalist, through a new rendition of the Cokie Roberts Tuition Relief Fund.

Roberts, in partnership with University officials, announced at the SMPA Kickoff event earlier this month that officials were cementing the fund as a permanent source of financial relief for SMPA students, rebranding and extending the program as the Cokie and Steve Roberts SMPA Student Support Fund. Roberts said the newly extended fund will assist undergraduate SMPA students undergoing financial emergencies or unmet financial need on a rolling basis to ensure students facing financial hardship can remain in school.

Roberts, who also serves on The Hatchet’s Board of Directors, said he decided to make the fund permanent to address the financial concerns of an increasingly diverse student body that includes first-generation students, students from immigrant families and others who may have unmet financial needs.

“When we diversify, with that comes an obligation to help these students we’re bringing in, not only make it through GW but fully benefit from the experience,” Roberts said. “Financial strain can be such a blight on a student’s life here.”

Students who receive the scholarship typically receive up to $7,500, according to the fund’s website.

Cokie Roberts, the fund’s namesake, was a broadcast journalist who worked as a political correspondent for NPR and ABC News, winning three Emmys before being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2020. Cokie was named as one of the “Founding Mothers” at NPR and is considered a pioneering female journalist.

Roberts said Cokie was devoted to helping others, specifically women in journalism, often offering advice to young women journalists in the Washington political journalism world and the fund continues to “emulate” Cokie’s values and generosity to the GW community. She died in 2019 after a 17-year battle with breast cancer.

“I’ve taught for over 30 years. GW is a very different place today than when I started,” Roberts said. “And it’s a very different place in many very good ways, and the single best change that I’ve seen in all my time here is how much more diverse our student body is.”

The number of minority students majoring in political communication and journalism and mass communication has remained steady during the past 10 years, according to enrollment data.

A University spokesperson said officials extended the fund because of a “philanthropic gift” from Roberts. They said the previous iteration of the fund helped more than 50 students during its first two years in place and hope the permanent fund will remove financial barriers students and their families encounter going forward.

“Each student’s financial realities are as unique as each of their contributions to the GW community,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Every student’s story is worthy of care.”

They said officials will advertise the fund to SMPA students throughout the school year to ensure students are aware of the assistance they may be able to receive. Applications for the fund are currently open, and students can apply on the fund’s website.

“While this fund is dedicated to supporting SMPA undergraduates, the students with whom Professor Roberts has spent much of his teaching career,” the spokesperson said. “He hopes it could serve as a model for other donors who are passionate about supporting students experiencing financial hardship.”

This post has been updated to clarify the following:
A previous version of this post incorrectly reported the name of the fund as the Steve and Cokie Roberts SMPA Student Support Fund. The correct name of the fund is the Cokie and Steve Roberts SMPA Student Support Fund. We regret this error.

Because of a misattribution from the University, a previous version of this story attributed information about the extension of the fund to Dean of Students Colette Coleman and Director of SMPA Silvio Waisbord. This post has been updated to attribute that information to a University spokesperson.

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