The anatomy of a free ride
September 10, 2007 —
When Director of Admissions Jim Dwyer came to SVSU in 1980 the University was only 30 percent of its current size and only a few scholarships were being awarded.
Only six Presidential Scholarships, which then included housing and books as well as tuition and fees, were awarded to handpicked valedictorians and salutatorians. Just 12 students were awarded the Award for Excellence, which covered tuition.
The scholarship program has been successfully transformed due to an effort spearheaded by President Eric Gilbertson.
According to Dwyer, the scholarship program was revised to increase the number of high-caliber students by offering more scholarships of slightly lower value, and broader requirements.
The transformation happened through constant critiquing and tweaking of scholarship policies. The major change was the creation on the President's Scholarship.
Gilbertson and his committee elected to redefine the former Presidential Scholarship and Award for Excellence by combining them. The Presidential Scholarship covers tuition and fees for four years and the University Scholarship, which grants $1000 for four years, has replaced the Award for Excellence.
The standards to earn the scholarships were also changed. The University thought it unfair and unwise to award all-inclusive scholarships to so few people when other exceptional students weren't being rewarded.
The requirements to earn a President's Scholarship are to either be valedictorian or salutatorian with a minimum ACT score of 24 or to have a minimum 3.7 GPA and 28 on the ACT. There is also a stipulation that students must maintain a 3.5 GPA to retain the scholarship. Students are also required to attend the Scholarship Recognition Program and interview.
As of the 2007-2008 school year, 150 President's Scholarships, 107 Dean's Scholarships, and numerous University Scholarships were awarded to students. Even in relation to the growth of the University, there are more scholarships than ever being awarded to students.
Dwyer said the Scholarship Recognition Program is integral because it gets potential students to "...first, understand the opportunities available to them and, second, to understand that we really want you."
Aside from attending valuable presentations, students have an interview with SVSU personnel. Janna Kern, an interviewer for the 2007-2008 Scholarship Recognition Program, cited the benefits of the interview to both interviewer and interviewee.
"The interview lets you get a better feel for the student," Kern said. "For instance, someone might look amazing on paper, but once you meet them and talk to them, they might not be so amazing, and vice versa; someone might not have had opportunities available to get as involved in high school, but once meet them you get a feel for their energy and what they plan to do, you know they are going to be a good fit."
Freshman Megan Spencer, a double major in accounting and finance, was recently awarded the President's Scholarship. She too thought the interview was beneficial because it gave her a chance to shine off of paper.
"My interviewer made me feel wanted at the University and made me very comfortable," Spencer said.
SVSU's scholarship policies are working successfully, said Dwyer.
"More students are getting the great opportunities here and we are constantly seeing an increasing quality in our students."
The University will continue tweaking its policies in hope of affording more students the opportunity to attend SVSU. Dwyer made it clear how important new students are to SVSU.
"We want you to know that you are like a blue-chip athlete to us and we want you at our school."