Aug 01 2013


The University of Montana recently received a $1 million grant to endow its Osher Reentry Scholarship Program.

Osher re-entry scholars are students who:

· have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of five or more years;

  • · are at the undergraduate level and pursuing their first baccalaureate degree;
    • · anticipate workforce participation for a significant period of time subsequent to graduation;
      • · are ideally ages 25-50;
  • · demonstrate financial need;  
  • · and show academic promise and a commitment to obtaining their degree.

Across the United States, there are 90 Osher Reentry Scholarship Programs, with UM housing the only program in Montana.

“Montana is a state of small towns, with many residents coming from humble beginnings,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “Many students are returning to school after having spent years working in traditional Montana industries. The endowment comes at an important time for our institution and our state as we work to increase significantly the number of people with college degrees.”

Based out of San Francisco, the Bernard Osher Foundation first gave UM $50,000 in fall 2010 to start a program for re-entry students. From 2011 to 2013, the first- and second-academic years of the program, UM awarded 40 scholarships worth $2,500 each. After successfully administering the initial grant resources, the University was invited to apply for an endowment. Ultimately, the Bernard and Barbro Foundation, another Osher family philanthropic organization, awarded UM $1 million for the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. While the endowment is being set up, the Bernard Osher Foundation awarded UM an additional $50,000 grant to use for Osher Re-entry Scholarships in the interim, ensuring continuous resources for the program.  

The endowment is set to start funding Osher Reentry Scholarships in the 2014-15 academic year.

“Paying for college while meeting all the other financial responsibilities that adult students face can be challenging,” said Mary Bitterman, president of the Bernard Osher Foundation. “The re-entry program is intended to address and ameliorate that challenge. The University of Montana enrolls a substantial number of nontraditional students and provides them with ample support services, making it an attractive candidate for the Osher endowment.”

Some of these programs include comprehensive financial-aid counseling; undergraduate advising; free law clinic at the School of Law; free tax preparation assistance at the School of Business Administration; disability, veteran and career services; on-campus, low cost child care; options for family health insurance and access to health care through the Curry Health Center; Native American student services; and the recent formation of the Nontraditional Student Association.  

Patrick Wayne returned to school at age 47, and became an Osher re-entry scholar.

“I was determined to return to college, but financially it was difficult,” said Wayne. “With all the trepidation of going back to school, anything that eases the challenge is so helpful. Becoming an Osher re-entry scholar was paramount to my return. I had hit a point in my career where further education was imperative for my ability to develop professionally. These resources catapulted me into a program and experience that has been extremely rewarding.”

Now Wayne says that if all goes as planned, he will graduate in fall 2014, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with an emphasis in public administration – ahead of schedule and without significant debt.

“If I play my cards right, at that point, I will focus on the next step,” Wayne said. “I’ll stay on at the University of Montana for a master’s degree in public administration. A few years ago, I would have never dreamed that I would be sitting here, but because of the generosity of the Osher family, here I am.”