It’s no secret that the rising cost of a college education is placing an increasing burden upon students and their families.

What isn’t often realized is the impact that has on university athletic departments, especially at NCAA Division II institutions such as PSU, where few student-athletes receive a “full-ride” athletic scholarship.

“As tuition increases so, too, does the cost of a scholarship for a student-athlete,” said Jim Johnson, director of intercollegiate athletics. “Over 50 percent of our operating budget, which primarily comes from student fees, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and private support, now goes directly to scholarships for our student-athletes. When you throw in the rising costs of medical, equipment, and travel, it really limits your ability to reinvest in your programs.”

Realizing the need for change, university administrators last year formed an advisory board, comprised of campus, community and alumni leaders, with the goal of developing a new program to annually fund athletic scholarships. Thanks to their hard work and vision, the university has launched a new program called The Silverback Fund.

“It’s a targeted approach to annual giving that we really haven’t had before,” said Johnson. “Much like the Ahearn Fund at K-State or the Tigers Scholarship Fund at Mizzou, the Silverback Fund will be used to support scholarships.”

The university formally launched the program at its 2017 Gorilla Gala. Early feedback is positive, but the next 18 months are critical to the long-term success of the program.

“You won’t find a fan base more passionate and supportive of their teams than what we have here at Pitt State,” said Johnson. “This gives them an easy way to help our student-athletes achieve their primary goal of earning a degree, and do so at any financial level in the manner that best suits their current situation. Whether you’re a recent graduate or longtime alum, you’ll be helping a fellow Gorilla achieve in the classroom and on the playing field.”

Within 10 years, Pittsburg State aims to provide scholarship support, up to the maximum allowed by NCAA legislation, entirely with private funds through this program.

It’s a lofty goal, but one Johnson believes is attainable and essential for the continued success of Gorilla athletics.

“We operate in a competitive landscape,” said Johnson. “A successful annual scholarship fund will allow us the financial flexibility to reinvest into our programs, and maintain the high level of success our fans expect.”

In addition to the knowledge that their support will help student-athletes, Gorilla fans will also be able to select a payment method that best fits their schedule.

To learn more about the Silverback Fund visit