Economy slims down scholarship offerings
March 1, 2010 —
As the economy continues to challenge families across the nation, one group sometimes overlooked is college students. While tuition increases and higher education funding decreases, many SVSU students have turned toward other resources to pay for college. One such resource is scholarships.
Trisha Stantz, the assistant director in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, has noted recent trends in scholarships for SVSU students.
“Of course the economy has taken a huge hit on students. With the economy and stocks, it’s more difficult to pay for school,” she said. “It’s had a major effect on how we can give scholarships.”
Shannon Brown, a psychology senior, credits scholarships for having helped her with getting through school. She was the recipient of the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, SVSU’s University Scholarship and a scholarship from her local church.
Stantz said that scholarships don’t produce as much money as they did before the economic downturn, but the federal government has loosened its restrictions on financial aid to help students.
“The federal government has a lot of need-based grants. They increased Pell Grant eligibility for an entire year so a student can get the money for almost three semesters instead of two semesters,” she said.
With these loosened restrictions, she said that additional financial aid can help the neediest students, but “you will always be missing some of the population.”
Stantz hasn’t seen a change in academic-based scholarships from the University despite the tough economy.
“Because we have more students, we can actually ask for an increase in scholarships to better serve those students,” she said.
Brown, a student who has benefited from University scholarships, believes she would not have gotten through her education without them.
“They’ve helped pay for all of my tuition so that I won’t have any debt after I graduate,” she said.
The Michigan Competitive Scholarship, although helpful to students such as Brown, is one of the latest casualties in the state’s budget cuts. Stantz said that she has seen the most change on the state level, particularly with the cutting of the Michigan Promise Scholarship and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship.
Despite cuts to university funding, she says that a lot of the same options have not changed.
One major resource students can visit is the Web site of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, where a full page is dedicated to scholarships. All scholarships on the site are divided into categories, which include those based on financial need and on academic achievement. The site also explains the criteria to apply.
SVSU offers more than 30 financial need–based scholarships. Many students can also apply for the four major academic achievement scholarships.
In addition to scholarships available from the University, Stantz encourages students to be creative in finding places to look.
“Outside of the University, there are a lot of options available to students. For one thing, many organizations and businesses can offer scholarships,” she said.
Many students have to consider taking out loans to complete their college education.
“No one likes the ‘loan’ word. We’ve seen many students taking out loans now when they didn’t have to take any before,” Stantz said.
She added that there are a lot of different options in how to take out and pay back a loan.
“Education loans are out there, and the federal government has made those very accessible, too. A lot don’t require a credit check,” she said.
“Many only require students to be at least part time, and you can’t already have a default on a loan. Other than that, there aren’t too many barriers.”
While loans are a plausible option for students, many agree that scholarships have been the most helpful.
Brown thinks that scholarships have been the best route for her own education.
“It probably would have been a lot more stressful worrying about how to pay for everything,” she said. “I think I could have made it work somehow, but it would have been a lot harder.”