MILWAUKEE, May 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Each year, thousands of students face the tough decision of determining how to pay for college. According to a recent article*, only 9 percent of low-income students received college degrees, while 54 percent of students from wealthy families obtained bachelor's degrees.

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To help ease students' financial concerns, Northwestern Mutual, through its Foundation, is announcing 12 grants totaling $336,000 to Wisconsin colleges and universities that increase access to higher education.

The grants support scholarship opportunities and fund specialized programs in areas such as information technology. The 10 schools receiving grants represent both private and public institutions and are located throughout the state. 

"Education is a driving force for any growing economy and healthy community," said John Kordsmeier, president, Northwestern Mutual Foundation. "These grants enable more first generation and minority students to cross the graduation stage, demonstrating how this support positively impacts the individual, the city and the talent pool."

Spotlight on Alverno College, Northwestern Mutual Capstone Scholarships
Alverno College, one of the nation's largest Catholic women's colleges, is a grant recipient. Founded in 1887, the Milwaukee-based school has an undergraduate and graduate-student population of more than 2,600.

The grant will fund the Northwestern Mutual Capstone Scholarship program, which targets low-income, first-generation seniors who participate in Alverno's Promise Scholars program. The Promise Scholars program was launched in 2010 to improve retention and graduation rates. Promise Scholars have a higher graduation rate than other students.

The funds from this grant will continue the Northwestern Mutual Capstone Scholarship program and be available to the current class of 50 seniors in the Promise Scholars Program. The scholarships support students at the beginning of their senior year to both reduce incidents of students delaying graduation and help motivate them to finish their degree.

"Typically, students who are the first in the families to go to college bring higher motivation, but they also face greater obstacles, especially related to finances," said Mary Meehan, president, Alverno College.  "By supporting Alverno's Promise Scholars program, Northwestern Mutual helps ensure that first-generation students graduate. That accomplishment changes their lives and their families' lives, and strengthens our community as well."

Higher education institutions receiving a grant include:

Organization

Program

Alverno College

Northwestern Mutual Capstone Scholarships

Cardinal Stritch University

Scholarships: Northwestern Mutual Foundation Scholars Initiative

Carroll University

Northwestern Mutual Foundation Scholarships

Marquette University

Northwestern Mutual Foundation Scholarship Program

Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

Northwestern Mutual Foundation Breaking New Ground Scholarship Fund

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Northwestern Mutual Foundation Annual Scholarship Program

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Northwestern Mutual Computer Science Scholarship Fund

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Northwestern Mutual Scholars Program

University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Northwestern Mutual Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship Program

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Foundation Inc.

Northwestern Mutual Scholarships in Information Technology and Computer Science

About the Northwestern Mutual Foundation
The mission of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation – the largest corporate foundation in the state of Wisconsin – is to build strong, vibrant communities that serve as a legacy to future generations. The Foundation's giving is designed to create an impact on the communities where the company's employees and financial representatives live and work. In fiscal year 2013, the Foundation will contribute $16.9 million to nonprofit organizations across the country.

About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company – Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries (Northwestern Mutual) – among the "World's Most Admired" life insurance companies in 2013 according to FORTUNE® magazine – has helped clients achieve financial security for more than 156 years. As a mutual company with $1.4 trillion of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual has no shareholders. The company focuses solely and directly on its clients and seeks to deliver consistent and dependable value to them over time.  Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer a holistic approach to financial security solutions including: life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, limited purpose federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investments.

* Luh, Tami. "Income Gap Continues to Affect College Graduation Rates." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 21 Nov. 2011.

SOURCE Northwestern Mutual Foundation