Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Students frustrated by lack of transparency regarding loss of merit-based scholarships

3 min read

Prior to a student request there was no information regarding scholarship maintenance on the Financial Aid website. (UMW website)

by REBECCA MUNSIE

Staff Writer

When students move off-campus, they are sometimes disappointed and surprised to learn that doing so will mean the loss of their merit-based scholarship.

Senior Katie Hartraft was awarded the presidential scholarship upon admission to the school. Having this scholarship meant that she would receive $4,000 every year as long as she followed the requirements of the scholarship, including maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

“I went to the financial aid desk and I asked them if I moved off campus would any of my scholarships be affected,” Hartraft said.

According to Hartraft, a representative from the Office of Financial Aid told her that the presidential scholarship would not be affected by her moving off-campus.

“I went to one of [Financial Aid’s] meetings called ‘Can We Talk?’ and… I brought up how there was no way I could find it online, and they just said ‘oh, thanks for bringing that up.’ They didn’t seem to want to try to work retroactively and fix the problems,” she said.

As a result of that meeting, scholarship requirements are now posted on the Office of Financial Aid’s website in addition to within student scholarship acceptance letters.

“We did hear some feedback this year about just having that information, that renewability more apparent on our website so we’ve added the criteria of what the acceptance form [says] on the website,” said Tim Saulnier, director of the Office of Financial Aid.

Saulnier also noted that the website’s breakdown of how merit scholarships are awarded has changed.

“A lot of schools award by academic tiers, essentially meaning that when you come in you have a GPA and SAT or ACT scores, and then based on that criteria, you would fall within sort of a grid, and that would determine what level the merit award would be,” Saulnier said. “That’s what was posted on our website, and we took that down because other schools saw what we were doing and then targeted students in that same frame differently. So say we were going to give you a $1000 scholarship, they might [see that and] then give you $1100.”

According to Saulnier, the decision to make living on campus a requirement is based on data that shows that students who live on campus do better and pay more attention in class.

When Hartraft moved off-campus and discovered the loss of her scholarship, she appealed the decision. In the end, she was awarded $1500 annually. As of now, she maintains two jobs on top of her status as a full-time student.  

Senior Deanna Biondi also lost her scholarship, an Eagle award, because she participated in a UMW-sponsored study abroad program.

“Because this wasn’t a scholarship I had sought out, I did not know the requirements of the scholarship,” Biondi said.

While she was abroad, Biondi checked her email to find a message from the Office of Financial Aid, stating she had lost her scholarship. Biondi had made the decision to move off campus because going abroad meant that she would return from her studies halfway through the year and did not want to have to move in with someone she hardly knew so late into the year. When Biondi received the email it stated that she had the scholarship for that semester, but by the end of term it would be revoked.

“I basically got the scholarship for one extra semester, which is fine, but I was annoyed,” she said. Biondi said she is grateful this is her last semester and the only one that is affected by the loss of her scholarship.

“There are people who are underclassmen that have lost this scholarship, and if that is affecting the rest of their college career that really sucks,” she said. “I felt cheated by the school. It is very unfair not only for me but for many other students at this school.”

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