Custom UA license plates fund scholarships

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Amanda Droopad's decision to turn down New York University two years ago and come to the UA was influenced by an unlikely factor: custom UA license plates.

Droopad, a business economics sophomore, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship her freshman year by the Collegiate License Plate program, which is funded by the purchase of UA custom license plates.

After applying for the scholarship, Droopad, who is from Phoenix, said she was called for an interview to meet with six or seven UA alumni.

The financial help and the interaction with alumni affected her decision to attend the UA, Droopad said.

"The interview was professional, but very relaxed," Droopad said. "Their experiences they shared with me were very insightful, and I know they influenced my decision to come to the U of A."

Nearly $1 million has been given through the scholarship program since it began in 1990.

After the program was approved by the state Legislature, Arizona residents have been able to purchase a custom plate of their chosen state university for $25, said Anne Lopez, UA Alumni Association scholarship program coordinator.

There is also an option to purchase a "vanity plate" with a personalized license plate identity for $50, Lopez said.

The program contributes $17 out of the $25 charged for every plate to the scholarship, which lets Wildcat fans like Ingrid Lindstrom show off their UA pride while giving a helping hand to students at the same time.

Lindstrom, a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and English, said she bought her UA license plate about two or three years ago because she wanted to show off her school spirit but was hesitant because she thought $25 was a lot to pay for a license plate.

When the Motor Vehicle Division told Lindstrom that the purchase would contribute to a UA scholarship, she felt better about paying the extra money, Lindstrom said.

"As much as I wanted to show off U of A spirit, I was wary of spending $25 for the plate every year," Lindstrom said. "But I'm glad to know I'm giving a little back to students who can't afford college completely."

The UA Alumni Association administers the scholarship program with the help of their alumni clubs and constituent groups around the state, Lopez said.

"The selection of scholars using the program ensures the funding is spread throughout the state and covers a diverse group of scholars," Lopez said.

Lopez said she knows the UA has a lot to offer students and hopes they will see the strengths of Arizona and choose to remain in the state after graduation. The scholarship financially assists students who otherwise would not be able to afford UA tuition.

"It's our hope that students who graduate from the U of A will see Arizona offers them a viable opportunity to stay and work in the state," Lopez said.

This year, 135 students were awarded scholarships, which average $1,000. There were 119 recipients in 2003 and 92 in 2002.

Lopez, who owns two UA license plates, said she knows people believe in the program because of how many plates she has seen.

Droopad said she appreciates seeing the plates on cars because it means students like her are benefiting from the program.

"I see them everywhere, and it makes me feel grateful to see something like that is established for both parties to win," Droopad said. "You can get a cool license plate and still help students out."