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College graduate wins $30,000 to payoff student loans

College graduate wins $30,000 to payoff student loans

Posted: 12.17.21

Blair Smith graduated May 2020 from the University of Maryland College Park with a bioengineering degree and $29,825 in federal student loans.  Three months later she wins $30,000 to payoff her federal student loans from Central Scholarship.

The United States student loan debt total is over $1.7 trillion.  As of February 2022, students will have to begin federal student loan repayment after a 22-month interest freeze.  For many student loan borrowers this will pose a financial strain.

Central Scholarship and its supporters recognize the financial burden of student loans.  Through a generous gift from donors Ira and Marcia Wagner the Paydown Debt Award was created six years ago.  Every year a recipient of a Central Scholarship award who has graduated from college gets the chance to win up to $30,000 to pay off their student loan debt.

Blair was able to take advantage of this life changing opportunity and WMAR-2 News came to witness the momentous occasion.

“You have no idea what this means to me.  One year out of college, I never expected to be free of my federal student loans.  This has been an uncertain time for everyone and I was not looking forward to making a monthly student loan payment.  Now I don’t have to.  I’m so grateful to Central Scholarship!,” explained Blair.

Blair was born and raised in Baltimore City and graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.  She is currently employed in her field and looking forward to pursuing a masters degree or additional certifications.  “The gift of paying off my federal student loans will allow me to pay for my next degree or certifications without loans.  This is a huge burden off of me,” said Blair.

Each year, Central Scholarship awards more than $1.2 million in scholarships and interest free loans to students, of which 33% are first generation college students.  Additional support is provided through emergency funding that assists students with essential food needs, medications or other costs related to medical care, transportation needed to attend class, safety needs, replacement of essential personal belongings due to fire, theft, or natural disaster, or travel costs related to a death or illness in the immediate family.

Central Scholarship provides scholarship support for career training programs, undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies degrees.  To apply for a Central Scholarship visit: Undergraduate, Graduate & Professional Scholarships – Central Scholarship (

To watch Blair payoff her student loans check out the story on WMAR-2 News Baltimore’s website.

Central Scholarship Emergency Fund Recipient

Interstate Transportation Emergency Grant Opens Internship Doors

Posted: 11.29.21

Lola has never been one to let financial circumstances affect any opportunity she desires or goal she sets for herself. Growing up, medicals bills and hospital stays for a sibling placed many financial strains on Lola’s family. But it was this experience that inspired Lola to work towards her academic goals of pursuing a career in public health and medicine.

Lola refused to let a quality college education and achieving her dreams be determined by her family’s financial position, so when she was accepted to New York University Lola came to Central Scholarship to help fill the financial gap.

After a successful second year studying at New York University, Lola decided to take advantage of an internship with the Maryland Department of Health within the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. Originally when Lola sought out this opportunity it was scheduled to be remote because of the pandemic. However, as state guidelines changed, and government agencies started to open again the requirements of the internship shifted and Lola would now need to report to the Maryland Department of Health’s office in Baltimore 3 days per week.

Participating in the internship would cause a financial strain for Lola, but she did not want to miss out on the opportunity. With a paying job as well as other research and volunteer commitments in New York City, she would have to remain in the city to fulfill those duties. To also be able to continue the internship with the Maryland Department of Health meant that she would have to commute to and from Maryland every week and cut back on hours at her paying job in New York.

With the help of the Emergency Fund, taking a train between New York and Baltimore every week was not a financial barrier to Lola successfully being able to complete her internship experience.
Help students like Lola receive the financial support they need to successfully complete and focus on their studies by making your gift to the Central Scholarship Student Emergency Fund Today!

Pay Dental Bill or Tuition?


Dentist visits can be scary.  Having all four wisdom teeth removed is scary and painful.  Health insurance not covering the cost of the dental bill is devasting.  Choosing to pay a dental bill or tuition; should never happen!

This was Wasilat’s unfortunate reality.  But her story started in Nigeria long before her dental surgery.  Wasilat experienced unreliable, ill-equipped medical facilities first-hand. She saw how poorly funded government health facilities lead to the loss of lives.

From that time, she made a commitment to study Public Health.  Wasilat’s dream is to make reliable healthcare accessible to underserved communities.  This lead her to a pre-med track at the University of Maryland.

Then she had a medical setback of her own.  Four painful impacted wisdom teeth lead to surgery.  After surgery, Wasilat was hit with a bill that her insurance did not cover.  This bill was not in her “college student budget.”  Wasilat was on her own and needed to figure it out.

Not to mention, she already registered for two summer classes and a National Institutes of Health internship. This medical bill would make it impossible to complete her summer plans.  The financial burden, worry, and stress would impact her grades and internship.  Her only solution was to get another job.  But there was not enough time for classes, a job, and an internship. Would Wasilat have to choose to pay her dental bill or tuition?

Determined to stay focused on her professional path, she turned to Central Scholarship.  She remembered the Emergency Fund specifically for CS scholarship recipients.  Wasilat applied and was granted funding.  She was able to put the stress of this unplanned expense behind her quickly so she could focus on her studies.

Help students like Wasilat receive the financial support they need to successfully focus and focus on their studies by making your gift to the Central Scholarship Student Emergency Fund Today!

Central Scholarship Gives Rewards David With Emergency College Fund

Medical bill covered by Student Emergency Fund

Posted: 11.23.21

A medical bill emergency almost stopped David from graduating.  As a senior at the University of Maryland, he was excelling academically and socially.  He was on the Dean’s list, leader of two campus organizations, a US Army Research Lab intern, and about to receive his Electrical Engineering degree.  But he could not afford the surgery; Central Scholarship’s Student Emergency Fund was able to help cover his medical bill.

With all David’s academic accomplishments, he was still struggling personally. One of David’s parents was undergoing medical treatment which made the family’s finances tight.

Then David faced a painful medical issue. He decided to postpone the needed surgery due to finances. Then the pandemic hit, David lost his on-campus job, and his summer internship was cancelled.

Paying for surgery now seemed impossible. David worried about finding a new job, his health, and maintaining his grades. Fear that surgery could stop him from attending classes and extracurricular activities weighed heavy on him.

David was also concerned about his commitment as President of Theta Tau and the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

With the help of the Central Scholarship Student Emergency Fund, David was able to schedule his surgery over the summer, heal and recover, and stay on track for graduation.

Unfortunately, David’s story is not uncommon.  Thousands of students struggle with financial emergencies every semester.  These unexpected financial burdens sometimes force students to leave school.

In many cases, they are unable to complete their degree, take off a semester, or drop out of college.  Students sometimes have to decided between paying for a medical expense, paying for food, paying for transportation, or paying for tuition.

You can help students like David get through unexpected medical, transportation, food, or technology emergencies. Make your gift to the Central Scholarship Student Emergency Fund Today!

Central Scholarship President discusses scholarships, student loan debt, and college application season.
Image: Courtesy of Fox 45 News

Using scholarships to avoid student loan debt

Posted: 11.03.21

Tierra A. Dorsey, Central Scholarship President, was featured on WEAA 88.9 FM and Fox News 45 to discuss using scholarships to avoid student loan debt and the benefits of aligning scholarship application accessibility with the college application season, respectively.

The student loan debt crisis is now tipping the scales at $1.7 trillion and Maryland families are carrying $35.5 billion dollars of that debt, according to the Education Data Initiative.  Dorsey discussed how student loans can be avoided with careful and early planning.

“We try to educate the entire family around the process of attending college (with an emphasis on finances).  It’s a conversation that should be had early and often.  Most families don’t start talking about finding scholarships until their student is in the 11th or 12th grade and that’s a little too late.  When a child enters middle school those serious conversations should be held.  It’s during this time that parents and families should be exploring all opportunities of financial aid to attend college,” explained Dorsey on WEAA 88.9 FM.

Maryland borrowers have the second highest per borrower federal student loan debt of all states at $43,219.  Here are the Maryland student loan stats according to the Education Data Initiative:

  • $35.5 billion in student loan debt belongs to state residents.
  • $43,219 is the average student loan debt.
  • 821,400 student borrowers live in Maryland.
  • 51.4% of them are under the age of 35.
  • 13.3% of state residents have student loan debt.
  • Among the state’s indebted student borrowers, 12.5% owe less than $5,000.
  • 20.8% owe $20,000 to $40,000.
  • 3.2% owe more than $200,000.

Dorsey shared that interest-bearing student loans should be considered a last resort resource to be explored after “free money” resources like scholarships, grants, and 0% interest student loans.

“Most people don’t realize what’s right in their backyards. There are hundreds, let me rephrase, thousands of scholarship opportunities out there.  Our government, (Maryland) state’s government, the (Maryland) General Assembly, and your state delegates; they have scholarships available for the taking,” says Dorsey.

To support Central Scholarship’s initiative to provide financial access, resources, and opportunity for students throughout the state of Maryland to attend college, the 2022-2023 Central Scholarship application opened on October 15th this year.

The new opening date coincides with the national college application process and early FAFSA completion initiatives.  The decision was made to change the scholarship’s opening date to October 15th (formerly opening on January 1st) after feedback from school counselors and students.

“We’ve learned that students become burned out by the time applications for scholarships open up which is usually at the beginning of the year.  We are meeting them where they are.  The college application process is happening now. So, we decided to open our application earlier so students can apply for our scholarships while they are already in application and FAFSA mode. In most cases, students can re-use or recycle their college application essays for the Central Scholarship application,” said Dorsey in a Fox 45 News interview.

To hear and view the full interviews, use the following links:

WEAA 88.9 – Tackling the Student Debt Crisis

Fox 45 News – Central Scholarship Applications Open


Announcing Vaccine Transportation for 2021-2022 Student Applicants

Posted: 05.03.21

According to a New York Times survey, more than 100 colleges across the United States have said they will require students to receive coronavirus vaccines to attend in-person classes. Joining those institutions are The University System of Maryland and Morgan State University, who will require students on campuses to be vaccinated.

We are excited to announce Central Scholarship is expanding our services to provide students transportation to and from a COVID-19 vaccination site. Every eligible student will receive a $25 ride share gift card. To receive transportation for your COVID-19 vaccine, you must:

  • have submitted a scholarship application for the 2021-2022 academic year;
  • be a Maryland resident;
  • have a family income of $90,000 or less; and
  • plan on attending an accredited college, university, community college, or private career school in the upcoming academic year.

To schedule your appointment and find a vaccination site visit the State of Maryland’s GoVax website. For all interested students, please email Central Scholarship to find out how to receive your $25 gift card!

Create a digital vaccine card by checking out gogetvax.

Central Scholarship Appoints New President

Posted: 04.10.21

The Central Scholarship Bureau Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Tierra A. Dorsey as the organization’s next President.  Dorsey, being an energetic entrepreneur-minded professional and strategic business development and fundraiser at some of Maryland’s top medical and higher education institutions, brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for providing students access to financial resources for college and career training opportunities. She succeeds Jan Wagner, who is retiring after nearly 20 years of service.

Dorsey comes to Central Scholarship from her role as Executive Director of Development at Goucher College.  Prior to Goucher, Dorsey was Director of Major Gifts at Towson University and Senior Major Gifts Officer at Maryland Institute College of Art.  She held similar positions at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and The Enterprise Foundation.  She began her professional career as a Planning Analyst at Baltimore Gas and Electric, now, The Exelon Corporation.

“Our board of directors is thrilled to introduce a career leader of Tierra’s caliber to lead the mission of Central Scholarship.” said board chair, Russ Causey. “Tierra’s extensive friendraising background and business development skills should strengthen Central Scholarship’s current partnerships, encourage new strategic alliances, and expand our brand in the local community and national non-profit industry. COVID-19 has clearly exposed the greater needs students in low-income and minority populations face. Tierra’s leadership experience will allow CS to remain strategically focused while expanding our capacity to impact more students and their families during these changing times in higher education.”

Dorsey holds a M.S. in Management and Policy from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in Business Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University.  She is the first African American President in the organization’s nearly 100-year history.

“I am excited to be joining Central Scholarship’s team,” said Tierra Dorsey. “97 years ago, the founders understood the failure to ensure financial access to higher education and career training opportunities for men in the Jewish community would have long-term, adverse impact on their community, employment prospects, and poverty rates. I believe in higher education’s ability to provide social and economic mobility for all students. A significant focus of my professional career entailed strengthening relationships and building partnerships for establishing impactful scholarships. CS’s enduring mission combined with my strongly held belief in the value of higher education, inspires me. I am committed to leading the organization with a purposeful driven focus, persistence, and determination for raising awareness of and philanthropic support for our mission. With gratitude, I welcome engaging with our existing partners and seek new alliances in order to address the vulnerabilities and inequities brought to the forefront by the pandemic for which the students we serve, and their families now must bear,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey assumed the role of president on March 1, 2021.  Please join the board of directors of Central Scholarship in welcoming Tierra Dorsey to our community.


Tips On Your Scholarship Application

Posted: 03.24.21

It’s that time of the year again and excited current and future college students are applying for scholarships. Here at Central Scholarship we know the process might seem intimidating at times, but we are here to help. Below are some tips on preparing a great application and we hope to be reading yours soon!

Don’t hold back!

Tell us why you deserve a Central Scholarship award! The members of our selection committee want to know all about what makes you unique, what you have to offer, and how your ambitions will be enhanced by education.

Your essay speaks volumes.

We know not all students are writers, so we’re not expecting a professional dissertation, but if you take the time to write a thoughtful, cohesive essay, it can certainly boost your scholarship chances. Use this opportunity to talk about events and experiences that aren’t mentioned in the regular application. Tell us WHY you’ve done the things you’ve done. We love specific examples. Don’t forget to showcase your motivations and goals!

Tips for the reapplicant.

We want recipients to be participants, not observers. Students who are responsive, who answer emails and phone calls, and come to Central Scholarship events, always stand out. We also look for students to demonstrate growth, whether by success in their academic work or by giving back to individuals or the larger community.

Avoid common mistakes.

It sounds so simple, but the biggest mistake applicants make is not completing the application! Every year we get partial applications from students who would be excellent candidates, but since the application isn’t complete, we can’t consider them. Once the application is complete, check that it is accurate before you submit it. Read the questions and instructions carefully. Our awards are based on the program you will be enrolled in for the current academic year, but every year we have undergraduate freshmen tell us they’re pursuing a master’s degree because they hope to attend graduate school in four years—and they can end up missing out on opportunities because of it.

We’ll let you know when we’ve received everything.

We will send you an email confirming that your application has been received. If you do not receive this email, the application was probably not submitted correctly. We prefer that supporting materials be submitted electronically. Directions are included in the application. Unless specifically directed to do so, please do not mail materials to Central Scholarship. These materials will not be processed, and your application will be incomplete.

Notifications and Follow-up

If you’re selected as a semi-finalist, we’ll contact you by email and ask you to submit a few additional documents, such as transcripts, family tax returns, and the cost of attendance and financial aid information of your school. Then, if you’re selected as a finalist, we may ask you to come to our offices for an interview. Final awards are also announced by email.

If you have any additional questions or need any more information feel free to check out our eligibility page. We look forward to hearing from you!