Students balance schedules to accommodate scholarship restrictions

Karl Schneider

Scholarship recipients at Kent State may be at risk of losing award funding due to restrictions set by donors. Some donors designate scholarships to students at specific campuses.

Last year, Kent State offered $1 billion in scholarships to about 45,000 potential incoming freshmen, according to Mark Evans, director of Student Financial Aid. Of those students who actually enrolled at Kent State, about 80 percent receive some financial aid, Evans said.

Kent State has eight campuses, each with their own scholarship programs. Private donors fund some of the scholarships at each campus, Evans said. These donors may want that money spent on students going to those specific campuses.

“At the Kent campus, the majority of our merit-based scholarships are really to high school direct to college students to have that four-year, on-campus experience,” Evans said. “Therefore, the Kent campus is funding those scholarships, so it would make sense, in a budget model, for that tuition to go to that same institution that’s funding that scholarship.”

According to Kent State’s website, many scholarships require that the recipient enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours at the main campus. If a main campus student wants to take online coursework at a regional campus and retain their award, they need to take the required 12 credit hours at the main campus and additional hours at a regional campus, or forgo their award money.

Anna Hofer, a senior hospitality major, was recently at risk of losing a scholarship. She was awarded a Trustee scholarship last semester and had scheduled nine credit hours at Kent State’s main campus. She had planned on taking two or three classes online through Kent State’s Stark campus.

One of Hofer’s sorority sisters recently had trouble with scholarships and warned that she may lose the money, Hofer said.

“I ended up calling the financial aid office and they told me that, with the trustee scholarship, the requirements were to take a full load before you can take classes over at the regional campuses,” Hofer said.

Hofer ended up rearranging her class schedule to accompany the scholarship requirements. As a result, she had to adjust her work schedule to accompany the on-campus classes she was now required to take.

“It made it harder for me to work as many hours as I would have like to,” she said. “Being a college student and trying to pay for things, you know, I’d like my schedule to be more flexible.”

Associate Director of Financial Aid Anissa Strickland said the financial aid office sends students with scholarships reminders of eligibility requirements.

“If we have a student who has a Kent campus scholarship and who is not taking 12 hours at the Kent campus, we start sending them emails in November and December for the spring term,” Strickland said. “I think, in some situations, students register for some courses and they’re not catching that this is a regional campus course.”

Strickland likened the notification process to emptying a big bucket.

“When we start the notification process, we have this big bucket of students who are not (taking) 12 hours at the Kent campus,” she said. “And through our communications, we send them a couple notices and then a final, ‘Hey, we’re really going to cancel your scholarship’ email before we actually do it.”

Each time the financial aid office runs those reports, the bucket gets smaller and smaller as students modify their course schedules.

“By the end of the day … the ones where there is mixed enrollment (students just missing the eligibility), I’d say it’s less than 100, probably less than 50 a semester,” Strickland said.

Students who enroll primarily at regional campuses are affected by the scholarship restrictions in the same way as students at the main campus.

Andrea Dale, a scholarship and financial aid coordinator at Kent State’s Stark campus, believes some of the reasoning behind the scholarship gap is the difference in regional campus tuition. Dale, as well as Evans, also mentioned that donors are able to specify what campus the students receiving a scholarship are able to attend.

“The Kent scholarship dollars tend to be a lot higher than at the regional campus,” Dale said. “Some of (the scholarships) are given by donors who want the students who have those credit hours at the Stark branch.”

Some of the scholarships don’t have to be given to students at one specific campus, Strickland said. Some scholarships have minimum credit hour requirements, not necessarily full-time enrollment.

“There are foundation scholarships where a donor requires some to be an accounting major,” Evans said. “They have their criteria that we have to follow and we have hundreds of foundation scholarships that we have to adhere to the wishes of the donor.”

Karl Schneider is an administrative reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].