The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

48 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA’s Good Works: Scholarship Program RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Throughout your career and now in retirement, AFSA has operated a variety of programs that advance the collective or individual inter- ests of its members. They include the AFSA Memorial Plaques, a dozen awards for constructive dis- sent or exemplary perfor- mance, foreign language proficiency awards, and the Legal Defense Fund. The oldest of AFSA’s “good works” is the AFSA Scholarship Fund, which dates to 1926. Unless you have a child who was recently aided by the fund, you may not be aware of just how large and beneficial it is. Below is a short overview. The AFSA Scholarship Fund began with a $25,000 donation (equivalent to $420,000 today) from Eliza- beth Templeton Bishop Har- riman in honor of her son, Oliver Bishop Harriman—a 39-year-old career diplomat who died of a heart attack while serving as chargé d’affaires at Embassy Copenhagen. The first scholarships were awarded in 1927. Initially focused on financial need, AFSA added academic merit scholarships in 1976. Over the decades, dona- tions from AFSA members— including occasional large bequests—rolled in. Initially invested in U.S. savings bonds, the funds were later moved to a diversified port- folio including stocks, and The oldest of AFSA’s “good works” is the AFSA Scholarship Fund, which dates to 1926. You may not be aware of just how large and beneficial it is. the Scholarship Fund grew as the stock market rose. With annual withdrawals limited to 5 percent of the fund’s average value over the previous five years, the fund grows over the long term and avoids sharp cuts in scholarships during mar- ket downturns. This long- term growth makes the fund self-sustaining and allows AFSA to increase individual award amounts from time to time to keep up with infla- tion. AFSA stopped active fundraising for scholarships in 2016, asking members to instead support AFSA’s Fund for American Diplomacy. As of late 2022, the Scholar- ship Fund exceeded $11 mil- lion. In 2022, AFSA distrib- uted more than $400,000 in scholarships. That is a lot of money, but having chaired the AFSA Scholarship Committee for the past five years, I can tes- tify that each year all avail- able funding is exhausted, leaving many deserving Foreign Service kids below the cutoff line. Most scholarship money is dedicated to need-based financial aid. Those awards are open to high school seniors and college students in each year of their under- graduate studies. Aid is dis- tributed according to finan- cial need as documented on the applicant’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as calculated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). EFC is calculated according to a formula established by fed- eral law that considers the family’s income and assets. In 2022, AFSA awarded $263,000 in financial aid. Most was from the AFSA Scholarship Fund, with addi- tional funding from DACOR, the Associates of the Ameri- can Foreign Service World- wide, and several privately endowed funds. Awards were given to 74 students with grants rang- ing from $6,000 to $2,000. With a total of 134 appli- cants, the 60 youths whose EFC fell below the cutoff line unfortunately received nothing. Merit awards are the second component of AFSA’s scholarship program. Academic merit awards, art merit awards, and com- munity service awards are open to graduating high school seniors and gap year students. Awardees are selected by approximately 44 volunteer judges serving on six judging panels. The AFSA Scholarship Commit- tee finalizes the selections and designates the winner of the best essay award. In 2022, AFSA distributed $143,500 in merit awards. All funding came from the Scholarship Fund. A total of 48 awards were given to 38 students, some of whom received awards in more than one category. Most awards were for $3,500, with lower amounts for honorable mentions and best essay winners. With a total of 127 applicants, 80 youths unfortunately received nothing. AFSA stopped publiciz- ing the names of recipients of need-based financial aid in 2017 out of concern for their financial privacy. But photos of academic merit award winners are printed each year in The Foreign Service Journal , typically in September. Merit winners are invited to be honored at the Youth Awards Ceremony organized each summer by the Foreign Service Youth Foundation in the Depart- ment of State’s George C. Marshall Center. n