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Saturday, June 10, 2023


This just in: Full scholarships are the stuff of fairytales and folklore

Imagine working hard all through high school, earning a full-ride scholarship to college, and then still having to pay more money out of pocket for your education.

For many scholarship students, this has been the unfair reality, according to a survey conducted by the National Scholarship Providers Association. The report reveals that there may, in fact, be no such thing as a full ride.

About 36 colleges were found to require that students pay at least a portion of their costs out of pocket. No need-based aid can cover these particular fees, regardless of how poor the student is. These minimum student contributions, which typically fall somewhere in the ballpark of $1,500 to $4,000, are most frequently popping up at prestigious colleges. They are not only sanctioned, but also encouraged, by the College Board.

The idea, apparently, is that a student will be more engaged in their studies if forced to pay some amount. If a student works hard and is successful enough to earn a full ride to college, how much more dedicated to their studies can they possibly need to be? And why can that dedication only be proven by money?

It gets worse. According to AnnaMaria Andriotis of The Wall Street Journal, “The policy is a major hardship for students who can barely earn this amount or who do not have family to help them cover this cost. When students cannot pay, many colleges suggest they sign up for student loans.” Free money isn’t good enough for these schools. They want their poorer students to accumulate debt before they even get their first jobs.

Some schools — Yale, for instance — will permit merit-based scholarships, such as those that are awarded based solely on grades, to cover these contributions. While that is at least a bit of good news, it’s completely arbitrary that these colleges are being paid the exact same amount, but being so picky about where it comes from.

There is also the fact that most scholarships take into account need and merit both. A full-ride scholarship is a huge amount of money to give away. If a candidate for one of these awards came to interview with only the financial need and lacking the academic drive to back it up, it seems rather unlikely that they would win.

The Institutional Methodology formula measures a family’s ability to pay for college. The College Board uses it to assess income and stipulates that it “expects a minimum contribution from each student and assumes that all students work full-time during the summer, earn the prevailing wage for young full-time workers and save a majority of their earnings for college expenses.” This fails to account for students who attend classes in the summer, who earn less than average and who have to help support their family with their wages due to outrageous fees they’ve been charged.

The financial aid industry is woefully out of touch with the needs of the people they’ve been put in place to help. It is a sad state of affairs when a student has been offered the money to pay for college and their chosen school won’t take it. This concept of minimum contribution needs to be abolished immediately, before it has the chance to harm any more struggling families.

Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected] 

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