After tripling its pool of available scholarship awards in the past few years, the South Louisiana Community College Foundation will award its first endowed scholarship in 2015.

The $25,000 endowed scholarship was created by former Louisiana higher education Commissioner Sammie Cosper and his wife, Shirley, to help support a married student attending SLCC.

“I completed much of my education while I was married with kids,” Sammie Cosper said in a news release. “I know the struggle firsthand, and I want to help someone.”

The foundation has awarded more than $180,000 in student scholarships since 2012 and is on track to award students about $120,000 in 2015, said Lana Fontenot, the foundation’s executive director.

The foundation has taken a more proactive outreach in seeking private support in the past few years, especially as state funding has decreased, Fontenot said in an email.

The foundation works to build the scholarship pool for students as well as partnerships to fund initiatives, such as raising the needed $2 million to match the state-funded new health and sciences building on the Lafayette campus. The college’s new associate degree program in registered nursing also is a result of $500,000 in private support from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the community’s major hospitals: Regional Medical Center and Women and Children’s Hospital; Lafayette General Medical Center; and Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, Fontenot said.

“Due to this donation, 40 RN students were able to begin classes this fall,” she said.

In the past year, the college’s support from its own employees has grown, as well, with employees contributing $30,000 to fund scholarships, which will help fund three new $1,000 scholarships next year, Fontenot said.

The foundation’s role is to affect students’ development at the campus, whether it’s through scholarships, helping find private funds for construction, renovations or new programs, Fontenot said.

“In scholarships alone, I’ve seen many instances where a scholarship has been the saving grace for a student with financial hardships,” she said. “Had it not been for that scholarship, that student would have had to drop out of school. These scholarships are making a real difference with our students, one by one. Our donors see every year that their donation can literally change the course of someone’s life.”

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.