If scholarships fall through, speak up!

Missy Pollock

External organizations’ scholarships can be helpful to cover what other financial aid doesn’t – except when the money fails to come through.

Scholarships from organizations outside the university are factored into a student’s financial aid package, so when they don’t come through, it leaves a balance for the student to pay.

The Bursar’s and Financial Aid offices need to be aware of the outside funding that students are receiving, said Sara Lynn Charleston, manager of the Bursar’s Office.

The offices ideally want to have a copy of a letter providing the name of the award and how much has been awarded to the student, said Conni Dubick, associate director of student financial aid.

The external scholarship could act as a place holder for the account in case the money was not received by the due date, Charleston said. The student’s financial aid is packaged with additional funds factored in, so his or her package will need to be adjusted.

But sometimes, the outside scholarship never comes. Charleston said there are a few reasons why the money would not be received:

ƒ-S The funds aren’t available due to lack of the donor’s financial means.

ƒ-S The student fails to meet the requirements with enrollment, grade point average or changed major.

ƒ-S The guidelines of the scholarship by the organization have been changed, making the student ineligible.

As soon as the student diagnoses a problem with the external funding, he or she should see financial aid.

“In most cases it leaves a gap in the bill,” Charleston said. “It’s up to the student to contact the organization to find out what’s happening.”

Communication with the organization is key, Dubick said.

Keep in touch with the donors. Contacting the organization and saying thank you means a lot to the donor. An update acknowledging how much it has helped can be a big factor of receiving the scholarship again, Dubick said.

“It doesn’t hurt talking to the donors,” Charleston said. “You’ll never know when you’ll meet those people again.”

If a student has a problem, contact the donor to talk it over, Dubick said. Many organizations will be lenient. It is always worth asking. Sometimes the source will be accommodating.

If the scholarships fails to come through, financial aid can be the next step. Typically, students turn to loans to assist in payment options.

If a student is no longer eligible for federal aid, alternative loans may be the next option, Charleston said.

“Alternative loans are processed fairly quickly because they are from a private lender and can be done online,” Charleston said. “It’s a much smoother process with less red tape.”

Some common problems with alternative loans are that students must have a credit history and sometimes a co-signer to receive one.

The student may also have to work with a parent, guardian or friend to be creative with funds.

“Hopefully something in the mix will help,” Charleston said. “Very rarely will someone walk away empty-handed.”

It’s really important for students to understand their scholarships, Dubick said. If a student accepts a scholarship, she is accepting a responsibility to fulfill the expectations and guidelines of the donor.

“If a student anticipates a problem, it’s good to check on it as soon as possible,” Dubick said. “Even at the last minute, Financial Aid can give advice or any aid we have.”

The problem could possibly be an issue in the system or an error, Dubick said. But the communication between the student and the Financial Aid and Bursar’s offices needs to be there to find out.

“Communication is important,” Dubick said. “The gratification and appreciation is just as important as willingness to talk it over. Don’t be hesitant (to approach the Financial Aid office), our goal is to get money to the students.”

Contact student affairs reporter Missy Pollock at [email protected].