College is expensive and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, there are ways to find ways to fund an education. Most of this funding comes with admission to the university but what people might forget is there is always opportunities to get scholarships throughout their undergraduate studies.
At Gonzaga about 96% of students who apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) receive institutional funding. This means many students receive scholarships and grants directly from the university.
“There’s the Gonzaga Guarantee, which is the award you’re rewarded your freshman year, will not be reduced as long as you are in good academic standing,” said Kelsey Parker, assistant director of scholarship and endowed funds at University Advancement. “That is something that our donors have committed to, the Financial Aid Office has committed to. When they’re developing a financial aid package, they make it sustainable for at least the four years you are in undergrad.”
Each year the Student Financial Services creates and recalibrates students’ financial aid packages to maintain the money students have had each year of their education or add more money onto their package.
“We just go into our information system, run a report of students who have the qualifications met by the donor and then we match them up, so the students don’t have to do anything more for those funds,” said Jim White, dean of Student Financial Services. “There is probably a dozen to 20 scholarships that do require the students to do something because it may require an essay or some type of action. Those we typically advertise to the students through Morning Mail.”
White said most scholarships go out around October via Morning Mail. However, there are quite a few institutional scholarships for students to apply for throughout the academic year.
Student Financial Services plans to spend about $100 million on financial aid this year. About $7 million of that comes from donors. Once these donations are in, Student Financial Services then allocates all the money to students across the university based off the requirements laid out by the donor.
“The tricky part about donor money is it’s like a game of Tetris,” White said. “You have to find the right student with the right qualifications for the donor money. It’s a lot of stuff. There are about 400 individual buckets of money some of them really small and some really large. You could have an endowment that produces $700 a year or you could have endowments that produce $40,000 or $50,000 a year. You still have to find the students with the qualifications and match them up. It’s a bit of work but we manage it.”
Sarah Everitt, the director of financial aid operations, recommended that students look for scholarships in their hometowns and through organizations they have connection to.
“Really, for a student they are going to be served a lot better by thinking of connections they have in their own communities before they go to a national organization and search for scholarships that way,” Everitt said. “Both can yield scholarships and results but we try to help students first by looking in their own communities.”
Parker said that her office along with Student Financial Services work to make differences in students’ lives and provide them with the opportunity to finish out their time at GU without finances being a big worry.
There are also many resources for students to look for if they are looking for scholarship opportunities or need help with their accounts.
GU has a scholarship search portal for all students, current scholarships are posted in Morning Mail and emailed to students if their qualifications fit. Students can also directly contact the financial aid office for one-on-one assistance.
“There is a lot of money people get in their first semester or year that don’t get renewed in the second, third or fourth year,” White said. “It makes us crazy because it disrupts a student’s plans. We try to keep it as consistent as we can, and we encourage outside providers to do the same.”