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Largest scholarship budget in Blandin Foundation history of $1.5 million aims to build strong future rural workforce

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (Jan. 12, 2023) – Applications for Blandin Foundation’s scholarships are available and being accepted until March 1, 2023.

The scholarships provide Itasca area students $1,000 to $5,000 or more per student for the 2023-2024 school year. Students may reapply each year, until they are age 25 or have earned up to a bachelor’s degree.

The Foundation is boosting its scholarship allocation by $350,000 to $1.5 million — the largest scholarship funding pool in Foundation history – as part of its strategy to help Itasca area communities build a strong future workforce and keep that wealth of knowledge close to home. This strategic emphasis aligns with the Foundation’s focus on community wealth-building. Targeting workforce education and development helps strengthen economic independence in rural Minnesota.

Key points:

  • College scholarships of $1,000 to $5,000 available to serve more Itasca-area students
  • Will help fund college costs and provide connections to the financial, academic and other support resources that help students stay in school
  • Nearly 20,000 Blandin Foundation scholarships have been awarded since 1956 totaling more than $30 million
  • Minnesota North – Itasca Campus students now apply directly to Blandin Foundation

The economy may be starting to show signs of slowing in some parts of the U.S., but Itasca County and the northeast Minnesota region continue to face critical workforce shortages. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that northeast Minnesota is one of only two regions in the state that saw a shrinking workforce since 2009 – from 170,000 workers at that time, to only 156,800 in 2021 – and is expecting an even tighter labor market in the next few years, as the number of retirees will continue to outpace the number of younger workers replacing them. In August, DEED reported that the region’s ratio of unemployed workers-to-job-vacancies was at an all-time low of 0.4.

“Blandin Foundation is aware of the critical need for a strong rural workforce, be it trades or health care or communication,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “We believe our communities are at a critical point in history to prepare the workforce with the skills and knowledge for the jobs of today and tomorrow. We need to get all hands on deck.”

According to scholarships coordinator Jen Alger, making the path to learning smoother for more students – both those finishing high school and those returning to learning as adults — means providing expanded funding for college along with connections to the financial, academic and other support resources that help keep students on track and in school.

“Supporting students going to school is about so much more than financial aid,” Alger said. “Our program is adapting to be a resource for students and their families – whether you’re heading to college right after high school, or returning to pursue your goals after some time off. We aim to answer questions, be good listeners, and find ways for students to navigate the complex systems of school after high school, so they can learn best and land the jobs they want.”

Who is eligible and how to apply

Scholarships are available to local students under the age of 25 who will graduate, or have graduated, from: Bigfork, Blackduck, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, Deer River, Grand Rapids, Greenway, Hill City, Nashwauk-Keewatin, Northern Lights Community School, Northome and Remer. Home-schooled and online students who would have attended any of these schools also are eligible.

New this year, students who are attending Minnesota North – Itasca Campus should apply directly to Blandin Foundation.

For more information on eligibility and to access the online-only application, please visit the Foundation’s website:  Call 218-326-0523, or 1-877-882-2257, or email with questions. Deadline to submit an application is March 1, 2023. Scholarships will be awarded May 2023.


Blandin Foundation is a private foundation based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. One of a handful of rural-based, rural-serving foundations in the country, Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota, focusing resources in north-central Minnesota. Our grants, opportunities that connect rural leaders, and policy work build up financial and human capital, so rural Minnesota places can welcome diversity, address injustice, and embrace change to create a sustainable and equitable future.   


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