Stacks on stacks…Scholarships that is

Story by Isabel Ashley, Staff Writer

Today, among the various issues that younger generations face in the U.S., student loans and college affordability rank high on the list.

Currently, 97 percent of Baker students receive financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants, and 70 percent of students receive participation awards, according to the Baker University website.

However, some Baker students have recently been under the impression that the University has altered their scholarship stacking policy. For some, it seems as though Baker has reduced the amount of scholarships a student can have or how much money is awarded per scholarship. For others, the mechanism by which scholarships are awarded is complex and too confusing to fully comprehend.

“I was giving a tour to a prospective student and their mom asked if we stacked scholarships and how it works, and I honestly didn’t know what to say,” Sophomore Morgan Thomas said.

After speaking with Shelley Kneuvean, vice president of finance and administration, and Jana Parks, director of financial aid, the two women wanted to address the misunderstanding amongst students in regards to scholarship stacking at Baker.

When asked to define Baker’s current scholarship stacking policy, Kneuvean stated that there is not a general policy in place, but instead the financial aid office tries to cater to each individual student.

“There isn’t necessarily a policy per say…every student is uniquely packaged,” Kneuvean said.

This scholarship package consists of three main components: academics, financial need and participation in athletics or fine arts.

However, there are many other external factors that influence a student’s package.

One factor that tends to fluctuate from year to year is the amount of funding allotted to scholarships per program. For example, if there are multiple seniors in choir, this means that the choir program will have more money allotted for scholarships for the next year.

Depending on how many new choir members are recruited, the amount of the participation awards will differ. A student who joins choir after the scholarship money has already been dealt out in the spring is less likely to be given a participation award. This concept of allotted scholarship funding is the same for sports, with each year’s roster signifying a different amount of money available for scholarships.

One of the most important factors that is considered when distributing all scholarships is financial need. According to Kneuvean, students who participate in the same exact activities may not have the same scholarship package because of this. Students with higher financial need may receive more money for their participation in an activity than someone with less need.

“We want to support students with the highest need,” Kneuvean said.

While Kneuvean and Parks have not heard of any complaints from students about the scholarship stacking procedure, they did note that sometimes students and parents are confused by the way in which their scholarship package is presented.

For student athletes, whom make up 60 percent of Baker’s population, their athletic scholarships incorporate every scholarship they receive, including academic and participation scholarships. While Parks mentioned that the package denotes all scholarships within the text of the agreement, it can appear as though non-athletic activities were not taken into account when one sees a single sum deemed as their athletic package.

Since scholarship packages are unique to each student, they can be rather complex and difficult to decipher if each participation award is accounted for and why one student’s award for a certain scholarship may differ from another student’s award for the same scholarship. Kneuvean advised students to complete the FAFSA because it is an important variable in distributing all scholarships.

For students who believe that Baker will not allow them to stack more participation scholarships onto their pre-exisiting package, Kneuvean said that a student needs to express their interest and advocate for themself to the financial aid office.

According to Kneuvean, there is no cap on how many scholarships a student can receive, but the previously mentioned factors contribute to a student’s overall package.

When asked to give advice to a student who is unsatisfied with their package, Kneuvean said that the student should inquire about any concerns with the financial aid office.

“Speak up. We encourage communication,” Kneuvean said.