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Check out the Voice Letters section for reader responses to recent articles on Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ.

SCHOLARSHIP NONSENSE

I’m on a rant today because I’ve read yet another story about a student who applied for every scholarship she could find, and walked away with enough funding to buy a new home. Proof positive, she says, that there are millions of dollars worth of scholarships just waiting to be claimed, if only someone would apply.

I’m not certain of the veracity of this story, but I have heard many like it. The internet is loaded with tales of the pot of gold awaiting any student who takes the time to apply for every scholarship they qualify for.

Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. I’ve been applying for scholarships for five years, and have not received a dime. I’ve even concentrated on the ones that require essays, since they are said to be easier to win. Part of the problem is, the criteria is so discriminatory for many awards that the needy don’t stand a chance. Just as the new Canadian government educational savings plan favours the rich, so do most scholarships.

Consider this: the majority of scholarships stipulate that to apply, you must be a full-time student. It’s not enough to show the intent to study full-time. So to apply, you have to have already squirreled away enough money for three to five courses in one semester — at current AU rates, that’s $1623-$2705.

I don’t know about anyone else, but as a self-funded student I can’t afford that. Instead, I often find myself taking one course at a time as funding allows (and wishing I could try some of the six credit courses). I’d love to be full-time, but I don’t qualify for scholarships because I can’t afford to be full-time (I’ve often written on my application: “If I am granted this scholarship, I will become a full-time student.”) Of course, since I’m not full-time, my old student loans are in repayment, but if I had more money and could be full-time, then they would grant me payment relief.

AU is not much help – almost all AU scholarships are based on academic performance, not financial need. Ralph Klein could win an AU scholarship if he got the highest mark in a course. These scholarships are essentially prizes for the most gifted students. I like that idea, but if AU is going to give out scholarships, should they not first worry about those who can’t afford to continue their studies?

The government has its Millennium Scholarship plan, one of the great mysteries of the universe. Even Students’ Finance admits they have no idea how the award recipients are selected.

Even most AUSU scholarships are based on academic merit, rather than financial need.

Dictionary.com defines a scholarship as ” A grant of financial aid awarded to a student, as for the purpose of attending a college.” Aid: as in assistance. But does a scholarship qualify as “aid” if the student is not in need? I would argue that it’s a prize, in that case.

Of course, even those few scholarships that allow part-time applicants often discriminate on the basis of age. The reason seems to be the assumption that a “mature student” can afford their own education, but then that brings us back to the notion that scholarships are for the needy — so which is it?

I would not want to see prizes for academic performance abolished. I hope to win one myself one day. But when you consider that open university is about helping students overcome barriers, such as the need to work full-time, children, disabilities, etc., you have to realize that a lot of the brightest and most needy students may never win an award because these barriers make it extremely difficult to come in at the front of the pack. These students may nevertheless be doing very well in their courses.

As for corporate scholarships, you have to wonder: Is the full-time designation meant to isolate serious students, or just a way to ensure that the awards won’t be given to any low-income “undesirables” (of course soaring tuitions are already doing a great job of keeping the poor out of school. Way to go, Ralph.)?

I just hope that one day I’ll be rich enough to take advantage of all of the “financial” assistance available to educate me and any children I might have:

Tamra Ross Low – Editor in Chief

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