Award policy for merit-based scholarships keeps SPU competitive

Hannah Sommers/THE FALCON Along with tuition increases, merit-based scholarships will increase by 20 to 23.5 percent beginning in fall 2015.

Hannah Sommers/THE FALCON
Along with tuition increases, merit-based scholarships will increase by 20 to 23.5 percent beginning in fall 2015.

Next fall, incoming freshmen will reap the benefits of top scholarship amounts, some reaching as high as $21,000.

Currently enrolled students, however, are locked into lesser dollar amounts.

With the Board of Trustee’s tuition announcement last week, two of Seattle Pacific University’s merit-based scholarships will also increase.

The President’s Scholar Award will increase by 20 percent to $18,000 and the Trustee’s Scholar Award will increase by 23.5 percent to $21,000 this year.

According to Seattle Pacific’s Assistant Vice President for Business and Finance Jordan Grant, merit scholarships are offered to freshmen at a fixed amount.

Termed “first-year scholarships,” these are guaranteed annual renewal, provided the student meets scholarship renewal criteria.

However, when scholarship amounts are raised for incoming students each year, current students are grandfathered into lesser amounts.

Grant says this is the case at most other institutions.

For sophomore Abbie Smith, this policy seems unmerited.

“I think it’s unfair that our scholarships aren’t increased as tuition is increased, because I rely on my scholarship to help finance my education,” Smith says. “If tuition has to be increased, the committee should at least honor our scholarship to tuition ratio.”

According to Grant, merit scholarships are increased for incoming freshman to remain competitive with other institutions.
Grant also says this policy ensures that finances do not hold too much sway when incoming freshman are choosing which university to attend.

Freshman Katie Black understands the need for a tuition increase. However, Black believes current students should be compensated for increases through their merit-based scholarships.

“Increasing tuition will definitely help with funding and improving our education, but I think that our scholarships should be increased to support the difference,” Black says.

Grant, however, says it is important to keep in mind that current students have paid lower tuition than incoming students for one to three years.

“About $2,000 to $5,000 less in tuition over that time, than incoming freshmen,” Grant wrote in a March 9 email to The Falcon.

Freshman Aaron Schmid expressed concerns regarding the increase.

“Tuition increases are bound to happen, but I do think our scholarships should be increased,” Schmid says. “More of us may have to take out loans or find a job to help make up the difference. It’s unfortunate.”

Although tuition is being increased, Grant says, Seattle Pacific Financial Services offers as much support as possible.

SPU provides approximately 65 scholarships each year, according to Grant. One such award is the Eaton Scholarship, given to students who entered the university without an SPU merit award but have since demonstrated good academic performance.

According to Grant, this is not common practice across universities.

“When working with a limited financial aid budget, we do our best each year to spread limited financial aid dollars as equitably as possible to students who demonstrate financial need in the form of grants awarded to new and returning students,” Grant says.

Junior Ally Anderson, an economics major, believes the overall price increase is inevitable.

“I think this situation is typical for most universities. Although it’s not the best situation, there’s no way to avoid the price inflation,” Anderson says. “We’ll get through it.”

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