Steve Hicks, a telecommunications pioneer and University of Texas Regent, has donated what might be the largest ever gift in higher education toward the field of social work to help alleviate the debt for those he said are doing “God’s work.”
“Social work students commit to dedicate their lives to service and enriching the lives of others” said Gregory Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “By investing in our social work students, Steve Hicks is investing in a fabric that binds communities together.”
The gift will cement the Texas school’s standing as one of the top 10 graduate programs of social work in the country by significantly expanding the financial support offered to students, enhancing research and teaching in the field of addictions, and developing new programs to equip students with skills in fundraising and philanthropy that are essential for nonprofit and managerial fields.
In recognition, the university will name the department the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
“I have historically given to organizations that help other people, and helping others is the true essence of social work. When I decided that I wanted to make a lifetime gift, the School of Social Work was the perfect fit, where I thought I could make the most impact,” Hicks told the University. “I am not a social worker, but I understand the need to reduce student debt burden so that social work graduates can stay in their careers doing what they love and positively affecting the lives of thousands of people.”
Attaining a degree in this field can leave students $45,000 in debt, which cannot be easily paid off on the typical social work salary— a significant hurdle that discourages many talented people from entering or staying in the profession.
“Thanks to his generosity, more individuals regardless of socioeconomic background will be able to respond to their social work calling with less concern about student debt and will have more freedom after graduating to pursue their passion for helping others and changing the world for the better,” said Luis H. Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work.
The gift totals $25 million, of which $10 million will go to establish a permanent endowment to support student scholarships. Another $5 million will be used as matching funds to encourage additional gifts to support the education of future social workers. The remaining $10 million of the gift will be used to enhance social work education in the fields of addictions, fundraising and philanthropy.
(WATCH Hicks talk about the gift in the UT video below)
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