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The Blue & Gray Press | October 17, 2017

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UMW transfer students struggle to find financial aid

UMW transfer students struggle to find financial aid

By LYNSY SPROUSE

Although they look like other sophomores, juniors and seniors, the University of Mary Washington’s transfer students may face different problems than most students at the university. Transfer students may feel that they are expected to know the intricacies of the university, adjust to a different workload and make friends, although they may struggle with feeling like an outsider in the UMW environment.

Transfers even face different challenges when it comes to paying for their education. As they receive fewer financial aid opportunities than freshmen upon admission to the university. However, according to Heidi Hunter-Goldsworthy, the director of financial aid at UMW, transfer students are given the same opportunities as freshmen to receive merit scholarships. She also remarked that UMW offers merit-based scholarships specifically for transfer students.

“It is worthy to note that UMW is one of only a few Virginia public institutions that offer merit scholarships to transfer students,” Hunter-Goldsworthy said. However, the financial aid website only cites the Virginia College Transfer Grant at the bottom of its page. The financial aid department’s scholarship and grant page on the UMW website, titled

“Scholarship/Grant Information,” lists the following available financial aid options aside from student loans: a merit-based freshman scholarship, academic departmental scholarships, scholarships for employee’s children and the Virginia College Transfer Grant. The website for the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia states that recipients of the Virginia College Transfer Grant must have an Associate’s degree from a Virginia Community College, a 3.0 GPA and an Expected Family Contribution of no more than $12,000.

Since the grant is available only to Virginia Community College graduates, students transferring from other colleges, in-state or out-of-state, are not eligible for the grant. In addition, as Expected Family Contribution is calculated by an already established formula, they cannot be expected to account for the distribution of income for all families of transfers accurately.

Emma Ferraiuolo, a junior marketing major who transferred to UMW from Germanna Community College, did not receive the grant but did receive an unsubsidized Stafford loan from the government. Since families take different shapes, she believes families with various socio- economic statuses should be considered.

“I think that it should be taken into consideration whether you are from a one-parent household making a six figure salary versus a two-parent household making the same amount of money,” Ferraiuolo said.

The financial aid department’s webpage does not clearly list a transfer merit scholarship. It is also unclear whether or not all transfer students who qualify for a scholarship receive one, which could be linked to the lack of information made available by the department.

Because this merit-based transfer scholarship is not clearly listed on the website with the rest of the financial aid information the university cannot be held accountable for it. For, if a prospective transfer student does not know what the University offers, he or she may not even look at the university as a possible option because other universities may more clearly offer financial aid for transfers.

The UMW scholarship search lists 14 scholarships specifically for incoming freshmen, while only listing three specific scholarships for transfer students.

There are, however, a few scholarships available to transfer students from Va. The Sipple Family Scholarship, given to one transfer student from a Virginia Community College who demonstrated financial need and the BB&T Scholarship in Business, are both available to traditional and transfer students who demonstrate financial need and have been accepted into a College of Business.

Angie Thompson, a sophomore from Richmond planning to major in art history, transferred to UMW from Randolph-Macon College. She thinks there should be more financial aid for all students in general because not receiving as much aid as possible can limit a student’s success and chances in education.

“If you really want to do what you want to do in college,” Thompson said, “It’s hard not to worry about financial aid.” Fairfax native Emily Sharpe, a junior majoring in English and elementary education, echoed Thompson’s sentiment, believing that all students should receive equal opportunities when it comes to financial aid.

“I think transfer students should receive the same opportunities for financial aid as any regular attending student,” Sharpe said.

Often, a college’s affordability is the deciding factor when a student chooses where to attend. According to Ferraiuolo, education should be made available to anyone who is willing to receive it. “Being able to attend a university feels like a privilege, but I think everyone should have equal opportunity to attend,” Ferraiuolo said.

Although UMW offers financial aid to transfer students, it is often restricted to transfers from Virginia Community Colleges. The university lists scholarships available for transfer students, but they are difficult to locate by searching through the university’s website. Many students believe UMW needs to make significant steps to offer more financial aid to transfer students and to make information about the financial aid that is already available for transfer students more accessible.