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University could play a potentially bigger role in helping students pay for school

The deadline approaches. Every semester, it is the same story. Having the ability to use a tuition deferment plan is great. It gives extra time to collect the money. But it is not enough time because life is always throwing curve balls and financial emergencies arise without warning all the time. Even with a partial scholarship, it is still hard to pay a semester’s worth of about $320 per college hour. Shoulders tense more and more each day as the deadline approaches.

According to collegeboard.com, 97 percent of freshmen with need at the University receive financial aid and 43 percent of students receive that aid through scholarships or grants — though it does not specify whether the aid if credited to the University or private donors. However, only 23 percent of students received the full aid they need.

In addition to scholarships pertaining to certain majors, the University offers six basic scholarships and 10 endowment scholarships — endowments being “money or other financial assets that are donated to universities or colleges,” according to a 2009 article on inestopedia.com. Scholarships, on the other hand, are funded by means unknown even to Joshua Menefee, a financial aid program coordinator at the University.

Most of the endowments have more specific requirements when compared to the basic scholarships. Likewise, the basic scholarships are offered only to incoming freshman and are renewable up to four years, unless the student is in a five-year program, such as architecture.

“Most [undergraduate] degree plans are four-year plans,” Menefee said. “The average undergrad degree is 120 hours, so passing 30 hours [as required to maintain the scholarship] a school year in four years, you have your degree.”

Such a scholarship is the Academic Excellence Scholarship, which grants from $2,500 to $8,500 per year to its recipient. According to the scholarship website, the qualifications are as follows.

“For students who have a competitive academic profile — typically a score of 1200 on the critical reading and math sections of the SAT (25 ACT composite) with a class rank in the top 20 percent. To remain eligible, students must maintain a full-time enrollment status (of 12 credit hours per semester), complete 30 credit hours annually (at the UH main campus) and (have) a minimum 3.0 GPA per semester.”

While it is great that the University is able to provide these funds, having the amount of money given to students for these scholarships based solely on their high school careers is problematic.

Truthfully, high school success does not guarantee college success, and it is even less of an indicator of post-college success. There are so many ways to do well in high school, such as taking easy classes rather than ones that challenge you — also known as playing the GPA game. And because some high schools are more competitive than others academically, a student from high school A may have a higher GPA than a student from high school B, but may be in fact not as well trained for success. Similarly, students who were involved in extracurricular activities, particularly those in leadership roles, may have had their grades suffer compared to their non-involved peers. But that involvement should be accounted for because it increases their worth in terms of experience.

A better way to reapportion the Academic Excellence Scholarship funds, for example, would be to offer an initial amount between $2,500 and $8,500 dictated by high school success, but then either add or subtract funds according to students’ college success thus far. Scholarship distributors could set up GPA parameters for how much scholarship money is received. For instance 3.0 to a 3.2 could be the starting point of $2,500 a year with additional increments of $2,000 every .02 GPA points, culminating in the maximum amount of $8,500 being given to students holding a 3.7 to 3.9 GPA and as a bonus giving those with a 4.0 full cover of their tuition as well as room and board.

This method would not only work as incentive for students with scholarships to strive for their best and not just the 3.0 required to keep their scholarship, but it would also allow for students to receive the aid they truly deserve.

Admittedly, it is not the University’s job to pay for students’ degrees, but restructuring the fund distribution could be extremely helpful and beneficial to those hardworking students whom it does partially fund.

Opinion columnist Monica Rojas is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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