The Renaissance Scholars program, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship created in 1994, is set to be phased out.
No new students will be admitted under the program in 2017, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick said in an email.
This past fall semester saw the enrollment of the last group of Renaissance Scholars to the University, and 2017 will see the expansion of the Handler Scholarship to fill the gap.
“The hope (I have) is that the Handler will over time develop into one of the nation’s most prestigious honors, a signature and widely-recognized program like the Moorehead-Cain in North Carolina,” Burdick said, explaining the decision from a branding standpoint. “That program has a 40-year head start but we will get there. ‘Renaissance,’ even though it’s a great word, and concept, and part of our history, is not unique to the University of Rochester, while ‘Handler’ is.”
Unlike the Handler program, which has its own endowed source of funding, the Renaissance Scholarship was funded from a pool that pays for numerous other scholarships. With the program on its way out, those funds will be redistributed, while the Renaissance Scholars’ advising services and selection process will live on in the Handler Scholarship.
The scholarship got its start as part of a suite of new programs instituted under former University President Thomas H. Jackson. Known collectively as the Renaissance Plan, Jackson’s changes included “bold strategic planning in undergraduate enrollment, the creation of several other scholarship programs, and (most notably) the design and implementation of the Rochester Curriculum,” Burdick said.
The program was then expanded in 2005, with 10 Renaissance Scholars enrolling that year. Around that time, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid received funding for a new need-based financial aid program—the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship—from University Trustee Richard Handler ’83 and his wife Martha.
Intended to honor Handler’s parents, the scholarship was initially backed by a $5-million gift and provided four years of full tuition to “worthy students who required significant financial support to be able to enroll,” Burdick said. In 2011, Handler expanded the gift to a total of $25 million, a number that Burdick says remains unsurpassed as “the largest University gift ever dedicated to student scholarship funding.”
For the first ten years, the Handler Scholarship was operated in tandem with the Renaissance program, its small number of recipients a manageable addition to the Renaissance Scholars’ advising and support structure. Students from both programs came together in “an informal student organization,” electing its own executive board and receiving a modest budget from the Office of Admissions, Burdick said. (That student organization was the force behind Saturday’s TEDx talks.)
The Meliora Challenge has seen an influx of support for student scholarships, Burdick said, enabling the University to finance the permanent funding of the Handler Scholarship and the expansion of that program. Once that was done, the Renaissance Scholarship was less relevant.