A long line of students crowded the walkway in Eder Hall September 9, when the first disbursement of refund checks for the fall semester were handed out. Refund checks were returned to students whose scholarship and financial aid exceeded his or her cost of attendance. These checks gave some students relief from the costs associated with attending classes at Missouri Western.
As the economy continues to spiral downward, students’ need for financial assistance grows. From the 2008-2009 aid year to the 2009-2010 aid year, Missouri Western State University saw a 51 percent growth in the number of completed FAFSA forms. With more need than ever, some of the scholarships offered at Western have changed to provide the most possible assistance.
Eligible Western students may receive scholarships from either Missouri Western or privately donated funds paid through the university’s foundation. Scholarships paid through the foundation remained unchanged this year. Scholarships awarded by Western were forced to adapt to the current economic conditions.
“Our administration is still very committed to trying to provide the scholarship dollars we had available in the past,” Assistant Director of Financial Aid Angie Beam said. “It allows us to help more students.”
Beam explained that the changes made to the institutional scholarships were made to ensure that Western can continue to award as many scholarships as past years, if not more.
This year, these changes only affected the first-time freshman scholarships.
“We had to make some tough decisions,” she said. This year, the Golden Griffon Scholarship dropped from $10,500 to $7,500. In addition to lowering the amount of the scholarship, the criteria were changed to make sure deserving students receive the award. Beam said other freshman scholarships made similar adjustments.
A new Provost’s Scholarship was also added this year to help bridge the gap between the President’s and Governor’s awards.
Students will also be checked mid-year for grade point requirements if they are receiving these scholarships. This change will take place next year. Beam said an estimated $130,000 can be saved by making sure students are still qualified for the awards.
Scholarship awards paid by the foundation remained unchanged this year. Vice President for University Advancement Dan Nicoson explained that there are two types of foundation scholarships.
Endowed scholarships are funded with the interest growth from the original donation.
“The earnings are down,” Nicoson said. “If the economy doesn’t get better pretty fast, possibly next year, we’ll be giving out less money… not by a lot, but it won’t be growing.”
The second type is a current fund scholarship. This fund is not invested but paid at the donors requests until the fund is exhausted.
“This depends on how generous people are being and how much they continue to give. The economy has slowed its giving a little,” Nicoson said. “So far we have not seen a major impact, but, within the next year or two, we could.”
This year the foundation has distributed $690,000 in scholarships to students. This includes endowed and current fund scholarships.
It is not likely that foundation scholarships will see changes in criteria. The requirements for these scholarships are set by the donors.
Senior music major Tim Thomas considers himself lucky to receive scholarships.
“I am very thankful to have scholarships to help pay for my education,” Thomas said. “It’s a real relief when everything outside of school starts adding up.”
The number of students applying for financial aid this year is higher than ever. Job loss for students or parents has created an enormous amount of need for assistance. Last year, 80 professional judgments requests were processed for students experiencing special circumstances. This year 768 professional judgments were processed.
Students can begin applying for scholarships for next year this October. Scholarship applications must be submitted by March 1, 2010 for the 2010-2011 aid year.