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Imagine if a student whose lifelong dream is to become an elementary school teacher arrives in college and suddenly faces this difficult decision: pursue their passion to help shape young kids, or choose a major that might lead to a more lucrative career and an easier road to repay student loan debt.
"It would be a shame," says Dave Larson, U of M graduate and retired Cargill executive, "to have to make that decision based on financial considerations rather than on what one truly loves. It would be a loss for the individual, but also for society."
To help clear a pathway for students to pursue their dreams, Larson has created a scholarship program with a gift of $5 million. Students who receive the scholarship typically come from middle class families, more and more of which are finding it challenging to cover the escalating cost of higher education.
"Prior to receiving the Larson Scholarship as an incoming freshman I looked at my financial aid package and saw all of those loans," recalls Katie Anderson. "A sense of anxiety kicked in as I thought, 'How am I going to do this? How am I ever going to pay these loans off?'"
The Larson Scholarship that Katie received helped ease her mind, smooth out the transition to college, and provide opportunities for her to round out her educational experience by participating in activities such as the rowing team, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters: "It's provided the gift of time to find out who I am and who I want to be"