The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis originated in 1920 as a program created by Meta Bettman for the St. Louis section of the National Council of Jewish Women. Its mission was to make financial resources available to young Jewish St. Louisans of limited means so they could pursue their dreams of higher education. The first loan -- $15 -- helped a young immigrant woman attend business college. In 1929, the organization incorporated as the St. Louis Jewish Scholarship Foundation.
In 1953, eligibility for the Foundation’s interest-free, no-fees loan program expanded to include all qualified applicants without regard to religion. African-American students from St. Louis received the first financial awards made to non-Jewish residents.
In the early 1960s, the organization became independent and non-sectarian as The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.
In 1960, St. Louis marketing entrepreneur and philanthropist Evelyn Newman conceived and launched the first ScholarShop, a retail store that sells high quality donated clothing and accessories, generating a dedicated stream of revenue for The Scholarship Foundation’s education programs.
Proceeds from ScholarShop, students' exceptional loan repayment rate, and increasing philanthropic support allowed The Scholarship Foundation to grow significantly in the next two decades. In 1989, the Foundation hired its first executive director and initiated a long-term strategic plan to improve and expand services, including increased opportunities through its student loan and grant programs.
In 1994, the Foundation created the Student Advocate and Advising Program to address students’ need for information and assistance in navigating the increasingly complicated process of applying for college admission and financial aid.
In 2001, the Foundation launched its Bravo Grant program, which provides scholarship grants to specially selected recipients of the organization’s interest-free loans.
In 2009, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis helped lead the effort to create St. Louis Graduates (originally known as St. Louis Regional College Access Pipeline Project), a nonprofit collaborative project involving leaders of area educational institutions, community service providers, businesses, and philanthropic organizations. The group’s goal is to increase the percentage of St. Louis area residents who have postsecondary degrees from about 25 percent to 50 percent by the year 2020.
In 2015, more than 630 students from the St. Louis region received $4.8 million in interest-free loans and grants for postsecondary education through the financial assistance programs of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. Since its founding almost a century ago, the Foundation has distributed more than $75.4 million in interest-free loans and grants for higher education to more than 11,000 students from the St. Louis regional community.