When freshman Tera Taylor decided to attend the University of La Verne, she was excited about the large amount of financial aid she would receive. Her expenses were practically paid for, until a financial aid policy went into effect.
Taylor, a broadcast journalism major, was told that she was eligible to receive a performance scholarship for her participation on the debate team. Her performance award along with other financial aid was nearly enough to cover her tuition expenses and Taylor was thrilled, until she was denied a majority of that performance scholarship.
“The school said that I couldn’t exceed a certain amount, so they reduced the award so it wouldn’t exceed the limit,” Taylor said. “I can’t pay tuition on the basis of this policy.”
If a student is eligible to receive a performance award, she will usually receive a letter from the Arts and Sciences Department stating a recommended amount that she is eligible for, said Leatha Webster, director of financial aid.
Webster added that the letter should have a disclaimer stating that the amount is only a recommendation and that it is must be discussed by the financial aid office.
“What they send is a suggestion. We have to look at the merit award they are receiving,” Webster said.
According to Webster, a student can only receive a limited amount of aid composed of merit and performance awards that can be one of two amounts: $12,000 or $6,000, depending on the student’s performance.
“The scholarship amount changes every year. The University hires a consultant who reports the comparable admission rates offered by other universities,” Webster said.
Under this policy, if a student is receiving a $9,000 merit award, she can only receive another $3,000 performance award regardless of financial need.
Although Taylor’s total amount of aid was still less than the total cost of attendance, this policy took $6,000 away from Taylor’s award money, leaving her $7,000 short for the academic year.
“With the full amount of aid, I’d still be $1,000 short. That’s a feasible amount to earn. But, no person, no matter where they work, can make $7,000 in three months, especially someone that is my age,” Taylor said.
Although Taylor is still trying to get the remaining amount of her award money, she has been realistic in considering the options she has if she does not receive the aid.
“If I don’t get the money, I have two options: I could take out a loan or I could go to a community college and go back home,” Taylor said
Webster said that many students are hesitant when it comes to taking out loans in situations such as this one.
“Often times, students don’t want to utilize the loan compartment of financial aid,” she said. “But there are other types of aids available, such as grants.”
Many other students, like Taylor, have had to compromise their financial aid awards based on this policy.
Senior Xochitl Garcia had to choose between a merit and a performance scholarship during her freshman year, but just recently was able to receive a partial amount of both scholarships.
“They changed the rules. It used to be that you had to choose grades or debate, but nowhere did it say that you couldn’t get both. Now you can get a partial amount,” said Garcia, a political science major.
Although this policy has been in effect for a while, many students are arguing that it is unfair and that it unjustly holds back funds they are entitled to.
“They hook you in with merit scholarships for your grades in high school and then the University wants you to perform for them, but you still won’t get the full amount of money,” Garcia said.
Valerie Rojas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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