Kennesaw State president uses own money to start $100,000 scholarship

Kennesaw State University President Kathy “Kat” Schwaig greets graduates during the Spring 2022 Commencement for the Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Convocation Center two weeks ago. Schwaig is creating a $100,000 need-based scholarship from her own funds. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Kennesaw State University President Kathy “Kat” Schwaig greets graduates during the Spring 2022 Commencement for the Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Convocation Center two weeks ago. Schwaig is creating a $100,000 need-based scholarship from her own funds. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Kennesaw State University’s new president is digging into her own pockets to help students with financial challenges.

Kathy Schwaig recently announced that she’s created a $100,000 need-based scholarship in her parents’ names, Ed and Nola Stewart. Schwaig, whose annual salary and benefits are close to $500,000, is personally funding the scholarship.

“My siblings and I had summer jobs, but my parents paid all of our undergraduate expenses,” Schwaig said in a statement. “Having benefited from their sacrifices, I know firsthand just how valuable it is to receive unwavering support. I hope that recipients of this scholarship share my experience as they pursue their passions at KSU, and that others who share my parents’ passion for higher education find ways to give back.”

ExploreGeorgia regents select Schwaig as Kennesaw State’s new president

The scholarship is open to all students. Kennesaw State spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said the first scholarship will be awarded in time for the fall 2022 semester. In the first year, one student will receive $1,000 and it will increase over time, DeMel said.

Georgia education advocates have pressured college administrators and state lawmakers to do more to help financially struggling students. Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill last month that provides financial aid up to $2,500 to some undergraduate college students in Georgia who can’t pay their tuition.

At Kennesaw State, about 45% of its students took out federal loans, according to U.S. Department of Education data. Nearly 60% of its bachelor degree recipients last year borrowed money to attend the university, with an average cumulative debt of about $26,000, according to state data.

ExploreMore stories about higher education in Georgia

Kennesaw State had nearly 43,000 students last fall, the third-largest enrollment in Georgia. The university’s enrollment increased by 20% over the last five years, the second-largest increase in the University System of Georgia.

Schwaig, who became Kennesaw State’s president in March, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and an MBA in Information Systems from Baylor University, a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctoral degree in Management Information Systems from the University of South Carolina.