More than 200 students at Washington State University Tri-Cities will receive a share of $431,000 in scholarships this year.
Friday was a chance for those students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, to meet the donors who are helping pay for their education and give their thanks before classes start Monday.
"There were a few tears shed," said Interim Chancellor James R. Pratt.
About 400 people attended Friday's Scholarship Breakfast at the Three Rivers Convention Center. This year's scholarship money is up $52,000, or about 14 percent, compared with last year thanks to more donations from the community and more state and federal grants.
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The large pool of money contributed to several more scholarships being awarded and almost 30 more students receiving aid than last year.
Sophomore Manuel Bustos will receive almost $14,500 in scholarships to continue his mechanical engineering studies this year. The 19-year-old Pasco student is the first in his family to attend college. His parents are both farmworkers and have supported him continuing his education but they can only help him so much financially.
"They see that there are people out there who support people like me," Bustos said.
Bustos is an exceptional case, though. Most of the rest of the scholarships are worth a couple thousand dollars each, with a few worth as much as $5,000, Pratt said.
The actual cost of attending the Richland campus, including tuition, living expenses, books, fees and other costs is estimated at about $20,000 a year, he said.
Brothers Gary and Daniel Spanner told the Herald they are going into their fifth year of sponsoring the Spanner Family Engineering Scholarship. The brothers said the $1,000 scholarship is a joint effort among themselves, a third brother and their father. All of them hold engineering degrees from WSU and are from Richland.
Gary said the plan is to eventually make the scholarship, which targets veterans, part of an endowment and increase the amount awarded. The brothers said they were glad to see more people stepping forward to fund scholarships, but that wouldn't be necessary if public higher education weren't becoming so expensive.
"It's going the right way for the wrong reason," Gary Spanner said.
Nevertheless, donors, students and school officials alike said the generosity of people willing to help others earn their education was appreciated.