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January 27, 2010

Sun Life Financial Pledges One Million Dollars to Support At-Risk Youth

National Survey Results Illustrate Significant Need for Financial Education Among Parents and Youth to Make Their Goal of Attending College a Reality

Wellesley, MA (January 27, 2010) – The U.S. division of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced a major corporate philanthropy investment that will positively impact the lives of thousands of at-risk youth throughout the United States. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program was developed to recognize and provide resources to at-risk high school students who are committed to furthering their education and the nonprofit organizations who work on their behalf. In 2010, Sun Life will award more than $1 million in grants, scholarships, and financial education resources to recipients.  

“At Sun Life Financial, we believe that improving educational opportunities for our nation’s youth is a top priority, which is why we are making an investment in the lives of exceptional students, and the organizations that work tirelessly on their behalf,” said Wes Thompson, President, Sun Life Financial U.S. “According to the U.S. Department of Education, 40 percent more students drop out of college due to money issues than academic failurei. The Sun Life Rising Star Awards will work to promote the pursuit of post-secondary education amongst at-risk youth in America, while at the same time providing resources and tools necessary for nonprofit organizations to create long-term financial education initiatives.”

NATIONAL SURVEY 
Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of students do not graduate from high schoolii, and even with a diploma, only half of graduates leave high school prepared to succeed in college, career and life.iii To better understand the challenges facing families and at-risk youth when planning for college, Sun Life commissioned a study of at-risk youth and their parents. Following are key findings from the study:

  • While 89 percent of parents expect their children will go to college, only 50 percent of those parents have spent any time researching college costs.
  • The study also revealed that 32 percent of parents believe their children will receive a scholarship to help offset college costs. However, in reality, only 25 percent of college costs are covered by scholarships and grants.
  • Seventy-one percent of parents say that it is their (parental) responsibility to pay for their children’s college, when in reality, 62 percent of parents have not saved specifically for this purpose and only 19 percent plan to use their own savings to pay for college.
  • Sixty one percent of parents believe that it will be extremely or somewhat difficult for their children to remain in and graduate from college, due to financial constraints; however, a lesser percentage of kids (53 percent) believe it will be difficult to remain in and graduate from college, due to financial constraints.

These perceived unrealistic expectations of how college will be financed, paired with a lack of understanding of how much college really costs, combine to set the stage for students dropping out of college due to financial hardship. 

Complete report of survey findings available upon request.

PROGRAM
The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is being launched initially as a pilot in six major U.S. cities: Detroit, San Diego, New York, Seattle, Miami/South Florida, and Boston. In each city, up to three nonprofit organizations and three students will be awarded grants/scholarships, with the exception of Miami/South Florida, where four nonprofits and four students will be selected.  In recognition of their commitment to supporting education among at-risk youth, each nonprofit organization will receive a $50,000 grant and support to generate awareness for their organization.

As part of their grant submission, nonprofit organizations will each nominate one extraordinary student who is involved in their organization.  Students will be chosen based on: the ability to lead others; commitment to education; community engagement; and ability to overcome obstacles. Students nominated by the winning organizations will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward their pursuit of post-secondary education.

Sun Life Financial is pleased to work with two corporate partners to bring additional value to the program and award-winners.  In conjunction with Sun Life Financial’s 2010 official sponsorship of the Cirque du Soleil Big Top and Arena Touring Shows, Sun Life Rising Star Award winners in Detroit, San Diego, New York, Seattle and Boston will have the opportunity to attend a Cirque du Soleil performance, and will be recognized at an award ceremony prior to the show. Please learn more about Cirque du Soleil at www.cirquedusoleil.com.  Sun Life will also partner with the Miami Dolphins Foundation to bring the program to the Miami/South Florida region.  The Miami Dolphins will recognize award recipients from Miami/South Florida at a 2010 home game at Sun Life Stadium, and will organize player interaction experiences for the winners.

FINANCIAL EDUCATION
As a leading financial services company, Sun Life Financial understands that financial pressure is one of many factors that contributes to whether or not a student pursues post-secondary education. As a result, a key component of the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program is financial education. In addition to grants and scholarships, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program will provide training, materials, and the curriculum necessary for nonprofit organizations to develop and provide financial education for the youth in their programs. Additionally, financial planning tools will be made available at www.sunliferisingstar.com– including financial tips, budget calculators, quizzes, and polls– all with the intent to help individuals increase their understanding of important financial issues.

NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS 
All winning organizations will be automatically considered for an additional $50,000 grant to further their mission. Winning students will be invited to enter an essay competition where one student will be selected as the National Sun Life Rising Star award winner and receive a scholarship worth up to $50,000 payable over four years to the educational institution of their choice. The national winners will be announced in October 2010 at the Sun Life Rising Stars Awards and Financial Literacy Summit in Boston.

For more on the Sun Life Rising Star Awards, please visit www.sunliferisingstar.com.

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About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of September 30, 2009, the Sun Life Financial Group of companies had total assets under management of US $385.3 billion.

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under ticker symbol SLF.  Visit Sun Life Financial's website at www.sunlife.com/us.

Media Contact:
Tracey Santilli
Phone: 215-790-4394
Email: tsantilli@tierneyagency.com

 

SLPC 21411  1/10
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i Source: 2008 report by Bill Pratt from The Pratt Financial Group and author of Extra Credit
ii Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2004-2005 Condition of Education Report
iii Source: Balfanz, R., Fox, J., Bridgeland, J., & McNaught, M. (2008, November). Grad Nation. America’s Promise Alliance.