Scholarships going to waste – Universities struggle to give money away

REGINA (CUP) — Thousands of dollars in scholarship money are going to waste in Saskatchewan because students are not applying. Although student loans and financial debt are a reality for many students, universities and colleges, like Campion College at the University of Regina, are often hard pressed to give their money away. “We certainly make a big effort to get them out there,” said Barbara deVlieger, college registrar. “But sometimes there will only be one applicant or none.”

Despite their efforts, Campion was unable to give away two scholarships of $1,000 this year because no one applied. Another scholarship worth $1000 had only one applicant who received it automatically. Many of their other scholarships had very few applicants. According to a study performed in 2002, approximately 40 per cent of students in Saskatchewan receive student loans and have an average debt of $13,582 dollars each. DeVlieger said that despite this financial need, many students don’t apply for scholarships because they believe money is only given to those with the top marks. Qualifications for some scholarships are often very specific, so few students fall into the available categories, she said.

Crystal Palmer, a fourth-year arts student at the University of Regina, owes around $1500 in student loans from this year alone. She said she has not applied for a scholarship since high school. “I don’t know, I just thought the competition would be too high and I wouldn’t have a chance,” said Palmer, when asked why she has not applied for a scholarship since entering university.

She said she has never seen the scholarships advertised and she does not have time to go looking for them. “It’s not always just academic, some will say that financial need is the primary qualification,” said Barbara deVlieger. She also stressed that community involvement and leadership are essential qualifications.

“In my opinion only good students get scholarships, not normal students,” said Aattie Auang, an international student from China. “Too high for me.” Auang arrived from China over a year ago but said she has never known the details of applying for scholarships at the University of Regina. She said she does not plan to apply. “Not now anyways, maybe later,” she said.

This year the University of Regina issued a booklet detailing undergraduate awards so students would have easier access to the information. The university’s financial aid office believes this system is probably going to help. “Our system here is a little different,” said Betty St. Onge of the University of Regina financial aid office. “If the scholarships aren’t given out, we change the terms.” St. Onge said that if certain scholarships are not applied for, they will seek out students who they know are eligible, or they go back to the donor and work on changing the terms. They will also contact individual faculties so that they can put their students in contact with financial aid.

“We won’t hold the scholarship money for more then [sic] a year, but in larger facilities you can’t do that.” In institutions like the University of Manitoba, the majority of the scholarships don’t require application. They either go to the person with the highest marks in a faculty, or someone nominated by their professors. Very few scholarships are offered by application process. “The only scholarships that don’t get given out are ones that are offered for courses where the professor is on sabbatical or the course is no longer offered,” said Cheryl Richardson of the University of Manitoba financial aid office. “The few scholarships that require applications will have applicants.”

Despite the fact that many Saskatchewan students are not searching out scholarships, the financial aid offices claim that they themselves are ultimately responsible for informing students. “There has to be an education process on our part,” said St. Onge.

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