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Partner Congregation program

By Greg Brewis

Gives Lutheran families financial support and a jump start on college planning.

A new partnership between Lutheran congregations and the university is encouraging youth to begin thinking early about attending college.

It's also encouraging families to take a closer look at the wide range of financial assistance that brings the cost of attending PLU in line with other universities, even big state schools.

The Partner Congregation program and confirmation scholarships began with President Loren Anderson's aim to find a new way for the university to recognize and make a substantial commitment to area Lutheran churches.

“For many years, students from Lutheran congregations have helped shape the academic climate, the environment of faith and the sense of community that makes PLU unique,” Anderson said. “The Partner Congregation confirmation scholarship affirms PLU's commitment to and investment in Lutheran students.”

Participating congregations throughout the Northwest have agreed to support PLU's Q Club with a minimum annual gift of $500 or participate in a matching scholarship program. They have also agreed to plan a PLU Sunday or other recognition event in the church that promotes the partnership.

In turn, the university provides each youth confirmed into Partner Congregation churches a $1,000 scholarship that is redeemable upon acceptance to PLU – renewable for four years. Other benefits to the congregations include discounts on theological conferences, special admission to PLU events and access to online and print publications.

“Youth are typically confirmed in eighth or ninth grade, some as early as sixth or seventh grade,” said the Rev. G. Lee Kluth '69, PLU's director of congregation relations.

“Because they have received a confirmation scholarship from the university, the students and their parents begin planning for college earlier than they might otherwise.

“Not only is it an opportunity for them to consider PLU, it also raises important questions early: What are you going to do when you graduate from high school? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” he said.

There are 110 churches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska that are Partner Congregations. Among them is Advent Lutheran Church in Snohomish, Wash., where the Rev. Kevin Bates '84 is pastor.

“The PLU confirmation scholarship is a gem of a program,” Bates said.

“Our church started it two-and-a-half years ago. We heard about it just before the application deadline and stopped everything to focus on qualifying four or five of our students,” he said.

The church gives $500 a year and four students each receive $1,000 a year to attend PLU.

“A $500 investment becomes $4,000 overnight. And it turns out to be more than financial,” Bates said. “It's a gift to kids in our church that shows them that we are interested and involved in their education and in their lives. It tells students that they are important to us.

“You never see any investments that can do that.”

According to Karen Riede, coordinator of the Partner Congregation program, there are 33 confirmation scholars currently enrolled at PLU and 475 prospective students have been awarded the scholarship. Riede's husband, Jim, is pastor at United Lutheran Church in Tacoma, which is also a Partner Congregation. Their daughter, Kate Riede '97 '03, is a PLU alumna.

“I know the affordability and the value of a PLU education myself, firsthand,” Karen Riede said. “If my family can afford to send two kids to college on a pastor's salary, I know it can be done.

“To those parents and families who say ‘I don't know if we can do this,' I'm here to tell you that you can. It's a commitment that you make to your children's education and it's such a high quality education here at PLU that it really does make a difference.

“Not that state schools don't have a lot going for them, but there is something unique about PLU,” Riede added.

The $1,000 a year confirmation scholarship students receive can be just the beginning. If their congregation also participates in the PLU Matching Scholarship (PLUMS) program they receive up to an additional $1,000 annually from their congregation. That's matched by $1,000 a year from the university for a total of $3,000 a year or $12,000 over four years at PLU.

In addition there is other financial assistance – merit- and need-based scholarships and grants, loans and work-study – all available from federal, state and university resources. More than 90 percent of PLU students receive financial aid.

“The Partner Congregation program and the confirmation scholarship should help many families get over the tendency to not even consider PLU because they see it as too expensive,” Riede said.

While available for only the past two years, the confirmation scholarship is already making a big difference for Lutheran youth, such as Karin Hatch, a PLU freshman and a member of St. James Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore. She received a confirmation scholarship, a PLUMS scholarship and a President's Scholarship.

“If the confirmation scholarship program was around four years ago when I was confirmed, I know I would have put PLU on my list of schools a lot sooner,” Hatch said. “When combined with other scholarships from PLU, it really helped.”

For more information on the Partner Congregation program contact Lee Kluth or Karen Riede at 253-535-7423 or For information on the college search process, financial aid and applying to PLU, contact Karl Stumo, associate vice president for admission and financial aid, at 253-535-7151, 800-274-6758 or

“If the confirmation scholarship program was around four years ago when I was confirmed, I know I would have put PLU on my list of schools a lot sooner. When combined with other scholarships from PLU, it really helped.”–Karin Hatch '09



© Scene 2006  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Winter 2006

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