Scholarships that assist or cover costs of pursuing a higher education provide a number of benefits for recipients. From reducing the financial burden of the rising costs of a higher education, to allowing students more time and energy to focus on studies rather than part-time work, scholarships are one piece in the puzzle of what creates a strong foundation for supporting students in their success in pursuing a degree, and furthermore, completing that degree.
The most obvious benefit of scholarships is that they make higher education more affordable. From this larger, overarching benefit comes many more benefits. As higher education cost continue to rise, a major deterrent to pursuing, and finishing, a higher education degree is affordability. Scholarships can give students the financial bump needed to take a leap and enroll in a degree, as well as a boost to morale and a student’s confidence in their ability to work toward a better future. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) is a non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to providing education and research that informs sound, evidence based policies and programs geared toward improving the lives of underserved and underprivileged populations. One of MDRC’s areas of focus is in Higher Education. Their publication “Piecing Together the College Affordability Puzzle” notes that given the drastic increase in costs for attending higher education, it’s not surprising that students from low-income backgrounds have lower enrollment and completion rates. According to a study from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, even after applying financial aid, families in the lowest income quintile still needed to contribute, on average, over 60% of net family income to covering the costs of tuition and fees. Relative to the degree to which this income covers the basic cost of living, college affordability, or lack thereof, becomes a huge factor in low-income students not being able to finish their degrees. MDRC references a number of studies that showed correlations of higher dropout rates among students with unmet need versus students with no unmet need.
Scholarships also contribute to student success by allowing for more financial flexibility in terms of the need for a student to hold a job throughout higher education. This necessity can impede a student’s success because jobs require time and energy spent away from schoolwork and other academic responsibilities. In addition, the extra time spent working a part-time job reduces time that could be spent taking advantage of the vast amount of experiential learning opportunities that colleges and universities offer, such as RSO (registered student organization) involvement, volunteering, internships and student-leadership positions.
In this same vein, philanthropic scholarships can have a “pay-it-forward” effect in terms of encouraging students to either begin engaging in altruistic/philanthropic work in order to give them a stronger background for a scholarship application process, or continue their work in such initiatives in order to maintain eligibility for receiving scholarships. Merit-based scholarships often require that students enroll in a certain number of hours and maintain certain grade-point averages. These requirements make receiving financial aid an active, rather than passive process, that gives students an incentive to perform academically and work consistently toward completing their degree within four years. As a result, the faster a student finishes their degree, the lower the cost of that degree.
An important thing to note is that scholarships alone do not ensure success in college. Scholarships often do not cover the full cost of tuition and fees, even when a student is able to accrue multiple forms of public and private aid. Depending on a student’s financial and educational background, they may need other forms of support to succeed in college. These other forms of support may manifest themselves in programs geared toward supporting students from underserved schools, or first-generation college students with benefits such as offering smaller class sizes for certain general education courses that may otherwise have hundreds of students in one section, and therefore little individual support. Other forms of support include childcare provision or special tutoring services.
Overall, scholarships play an important role in making college more accessible and affordable, and paving the way for students to be successful in both their pursuit and completion of their degree. When students can successfully earn their degrees, and the process is not burdensome or postponed, our greater society and economy are benefited. When young adults are able to focus their energy and means on their careers and serving the greater good, rather than paying off loans or having to re-enroll in school after dropping out for financial reasons, we have a happier, healthier and more efficient working public.
College Relief Fund is very pleased to offer its semi-annual scholarship. We encourage all students to take advantage of this opportunity.