Mission 46: Ambitious initiative hopes to expand scholarships statewide
An ambitious initiative aims to eliminate the financial barrier to college for bright, under-resourced South Carolina students, improving both the trajectory of their lives and the communities where they reside.
Mission 46 is the trailblazing campaign to offer college scholarships to high-achieving students with financial need who live in one of the state’s 46 counties. Every dollar raised by the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit behind Mission 46, will go directly to student scholarships. The success of the three-year old Meeting Street Scholarship Fund has been remarkable, with $21.6 million committed in scholarships for 540 students in 11 counties to date, that it now hopes to expand statewide.
“We want our state’s students to know their future is bright, and with hard work, a college education is within their reach,” said Ben Navarro, a businessman and philanthropist who founded the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund. “We’re passionate about making a four-year degree accessible and affordable to all South Carolina students, and Mission 46 is how we create opportunities and change lives – both for current students and for generations to come.”
Mission 46 means making the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund accessible to students across the state. Expanding to 35 additional counties and serving more students will require the support of more donors. Until now, the fund has been backed primarily by the Navarro family, as well as the Darla Moore Foundation.
“We are seeking more visionary partners to join us in supporting Mission 46,” said Darla Moore, a nationally recognized business leader and philanthropist. “The return on this investment is tangible and powerful. Our best and brightest deserve the chance to go to college without debilitating debt, and we are more committed than ever to giving those students that opportunity.”
New donors, including retired businessman Dave Proctor, have provided more support, enabling the expansion to additional counties for 2023 high school graduates. Administrative costs to operate the fund are fully covered by the Navarros’ Beemok Family Foundation.
The Meeting Street Scholarship Fund helps make college dreams a reality for public school students with a strong record of academic achievement and a demonstrated financial need. The scholarship uses simple criteria to determine student eligibility, the South Carolina LIFE Scholarship for academic achievement and federal Pell Grant for demonstrated financial need, and that leverages the power of both existing programs.
The Meeting Street Scholarship Fund provides awards to cover the remaining costs after all other scholarships and need-based grants, but it’s given prior to the use of student loans. Up to $10,000 per year is given per student for in-state tuition, fees, housing or food costs. Every qualified student who applies for the scholarship will receive one; there is no limit to the number of scholarships granted.
The Meeting Street Scholarship Fund is available to public school students in 11 counties: Barnwell, Charleston, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg.
The Meeting Street Scholarship Fund is one of the largest privately funded scholarship programs in the nation. A total of 261 outstanding students will attend one of 17 eligible in-state colleges this year with its assistance. Those colleges have a 50 percent or higher graduation rate, ensuring the greatest likelihood for successful completion of a degree.
Local and state leaders applauded Mission 46 for its inspired approach to enhancing the state’s educational landscape.
“Mission 46 is much more than a scholarship; this is about transforming the future of South Carolina,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. “By investing in these students, we are helping to build a stronger generation of leaders in every corner of our state. We must ensure that achieving a college degree is accessible and affordable to South Carolina students, and we are fully supportive of private partners, such as the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, that are working tirelessly to send more high achieving students with a demonstrated financial need to college.”
Other supporters of Mission 46 include Sen. Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester County).
“More students graduating with college degrees is critical to a better future for all of South Carolina,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to do our part at the state level to ensure the total price tag of college is reasonable and – more importantly – that all South Carolina college degrees deliver value to students. We are grateful to the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund for helping to generously cover some of that cost for students who need it most. Mission 46 will help more South Carolina students focus on how to earn a degree rather than worry about how to pay for it.”
Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington County) also stands in support of Mission 46.
“This will allow thousands of hard-working, deserving students to earn a college diploma and pursue their dreams,” Malloy said. “Our school districts must do all they can to prepare more young people to take advantage of this life-changing opportunity.”
More graduates from South Carolina colleges would result in significant benefits for the state as a whole. Research has shown that graduates of state colleges generally stay an average of 330 miles from their alma mater; 40 percent are within 50 miles.
Additionally, college graduates are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings than those without a college degree. Research also indicates college graduates are more likely to be upwardly mobile, married, not living in their parents’ homes and to be satisfied with their jobs.
Josh Bell, executive director of the fund, said he looks forward to broadening efforts in partnership with donors to support the state’s rural and often-forgotten communities.
“Hard-working students across South Carolina dream of going to college, and Mission 46 will equip more of them with the financial resources they need to make those dreams a reality,” Bell said.
To donate to Mission 46 and the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, go to meetingstreetscholarshipfund.org/mission-46.