LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—Viterbo University is in the final steps of completing a major fundraising campaign.
The school began the "University of Opportunity: Hope and Help Comprehensive Campaign" in 2008. The goal is to raise $40 million to transform the campus and quality of education. So far they've raised $37 million.
Tuesday, the university celebrated the success of the campaign and kicked off the final leg of the fundraising effort. That last $3 million they hope to collect will fund scholarships.
So far, the money has funded a variety of projects and programs at the school. One of the most noticeable contributions to the campus is the new School of Nursing Building. Viterbo President Rick Artman says the new facility boosted enrollment in the program by 30 percent.
"Healthcare is an important part of the La Crosse economy and there's a shortage of nurses so that's providing an opportunity for not only our students to get great jobs, but to feed the pipeline for th future for our healthcare providers," Artman said.
Ali Behringer spoke at Tuesday's celebration. Behringer didn't think a four year university fit in to her plans, in part because of the price of tuition.
"I was majorly concerned about cost," Behringer said. "We had two kids, we had just filed bankruptcy."
But with the help of scholarships, Behringer attended Viterbo, a school she chose for the social work program. Some of the money to fund Ali's education came from the $37 million dollars the school raised as part of the campaign.
"We know that when you make a gift you wanna see that it makes a difference and when you see a face and a story like Ali's, it tells you that you can make a difference," said Viterbo president, Rick Artman.
And those scholarships and the support of Viterbo made all the difference when Behringer was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I had to take off a semester in my junior year to go through chemo and radiation, a bilateral mastectomy," Behringer said. "[Viterbo's support] helped me think that I was worth something, worth coming back to school and I wasn't just some dying cancer patient or some non-traditional student with extenuating circumstances, that I didn't deserve an education."
President Artman says the final $3 million will fund more scholarships for students, like Ali.
"Vitebo's education was kind of sneaky because I thought I was just gonna go get a piece of paper that would allow me to work where I wanted to work but it really opened my eyes to ethics and just the community," Behringer said.
Behringer is now the first woman in her family to earn a bachelor's degree and she did it with honors.
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