College acceptance for students with Down syndrome is a real possibility, as you learned in my very first blog post. But once you’re accepted, how do you pay for college tuition?
Ruby’s Rainbow, that’s how!
Ruby’s Rainbow is an amazing non-profit that grants post-secondary scholarships to students with Down syndrome. The scholarship recipients can use the money for a university, community college, or vocational program.
Ruby’s Rainbow creator and Executive Director, Liz Plachta says the non-profit gives over 40 scholarships every summer, each worth from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars.
This year, the organization raised a record $137,500 for 47 Rockin’ Recipients. Check out the winners here.
Ruby’s Rainbow is such an important organization, because college tuition for students with Down syndrome can sometimes costs more than typical college tuition.
At Syracuse University’s InclusiveU program, tuition can increase by $10,000 dollars to $24,000 a year if a student needs addition supports. That’s enough to make college out of reach for this group of students.
“Parents weren’t expecting to pay for college for their child who was born with Down syndrome a generation or two ago,” Plachta says. If a student with Down syndrome decides to go to a community college, Ruby’s Rainbow scholarships could cover the whole cost.
Also, the Higher Education Opportunity Act allows college students with cognitive disabilities to apply for pell grants or work study funds, but they still can’t get a student loan.
The inspiration for Ruby’s Rainbow is Plachta’s daughter, Ruby, who is now 7-years-old and rocks an extra chromosome.
“I knew I wanted Ruby to have the same opportunities as her older sister. I didn’t even know if people with Down syndrome went to college when Ruby was born. But I started researching and found college programs for student with cognitive disabilities…
…At that point, I was full force ahead. I wanted to raise expectations!” says Liz Plachta, Ruby’s Rainbow creator.
And raise expectations is just what she did!
“The non-profit’s growth has blown me away!” Plachta says. This year Ruby’s Rainbow almost doubled their applicants and recipients. Since 2012, the organization has provided more than $400,000 in scholarship money to over 150 students with Down syndrome.
“When we first started, my goal was to raise $2,000 dollars and give one scholarship. That first year we raised $20,000 and gave 10 scholarships!” explains Plachta.
One of the first scholarship recipients, Alex Bender, just graduated from University of Cincinnati’s 4-year Transition and Access Program (TAP).
“I love my college, University of Cincinnati, a ton! Now that I graduated my plans are to get a Job at University of Cincinnati Bearcats Athletics Department,” Bender explains.
Bender plans to live in a house or apartment near the University of Cincinnati with friends. She says Ruby’s Rainbow helped make all this possible.
Plachta says her next goal is to raise scholarship amounts. “Right now our scholarships make a small dent in college tuition. I want to make our impact even bigger,” Plachta says.
Of course, all of these scholarships are made possible through generous donations.
“I see a piece of my daughter, Ruby, in every single applicant we review. I hate to turn anyone away, but right now we don’t have the funds to give every applicant a scholarship,” Plachta explains.
Ruby’s Rainbow’s biggest fundraiser is on March 21st or World Down Syndrome Day. They ask donors for 3 ways to help:
- Donate $21 (representing the 21st chromosome–people with Down syndrome have 3 copies of this chromosome)
- Make a pledge to be kind to people of all abilities
- And ask 3 friends to do the same
Plachta expects to announce this year’s winners in August sometime.
To find out how you can donate, apply, or find out about this year’s recipients visit Ruby’s Rainbow at www.rubysrainbow.org