If you were able to change the lives of 33 students by giving them the education they had only dreamed of, would you? Dale Schroeder did just this by putting his secret fortune toward the college tuition of local students in Iowa who could otherwise not afford a college education.
Many students are unfortunately unable to pay college tuition because of the excessive cost of education in the US. On average, the cost of tuition at a four-year state university is $21,370 for in-state residents and $37,430 for students coming from out of state. Private universities cost even more at about $48,510 for four years of classes. These prices include tuition, fees, room and board. Graduates in the year 2017 were often left in debt of around $37,172.
Schroeder believed that every student should have the ability to get an education and did his part to make that belief a reality. Before Schroeder passed away in 2005, he paid a visit to his lawyer and friend, Steve Nielson who set up the funds that would support others after he had passed. Schroeder worked diligently as a carpenter at a blue collar job with the same Des Moines business in Iowa for 67 years. Nielson described Schroeder as quiet and shy, but a hard worker. Having grown up poor, Schroeder lived a frugal lifestyle and saved more than anyone could have ever expected.
“He wanted to help kids that were like him, that probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift,” Nielson said. “Finally, I was curious and I said, ‘How much are we talking about, Dale?’ And he said, ‘Oh, just shy of $3 million.’ I nearly fell out of my chair.”
Schroeder had not asked for much in return. “All we ask is that you pay it forward,” Nielsen said when giving the tuition money to the students. “You can’t pay it back, because Dale is gone, but you can remember him and you can emulate him.”
Kira Conard was a selected recipient of the tuition money provided by Schroeder and described the generous offer as something that changed her life. Shortly before hearing that she would be able to attend college, Conard had been preparing to tell her friends and family that she would not be able to afford a college education.
“I grew up in a single parent household and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option,” Conard said. “[It] almost made me feel powerless. Like, I want to do this. I have this goal, but I can’t get there just because of the financial part.”
With Schroeder’s financial support for her higher education, Conard was able to pursue her dreams of becoming a therapist. Years later, the 33 students who have become doctors, teachers, therapists, and many other accomplished positions, gathered recently in honor of Schroeder’s incredible support and belief in their success. They now call themselves “Dale’s Kids” as they truly respect him as they do their own parents.
“Dale would be extremely proud,” Nielsen said.
Nielson learned of the level of success Schroeder’s money had helped create and was very proud of them all for truly paying it forward. Through his gift of education, Schroeder not only changed the lives of 33 strangers, but he also gave those strangers the ability and motivation to change the world.