Whitworth scholarships provide buffer for rising tuition costs

Tuition prices have been steadily rising at universities across the country and Whitworth is no exception. Whitworth students are facing a 4 percent increase in tuition for the 2014-15 school year. For the 2014-15 school year, Whitworth students have access to nearly $60 million in scholarships.

Whitworth offers $28.89 million in scholarships for students are awarded directly through Whitworth and an additional $31 million is available from donors outside of Whitworth.

“A lot of the funds comes directly from donors, and some of it is part of Whitworth’s operating budget,” Wendy Olson, director of financial aid, said. The scholarship funds that are available directly from Whitworth are distributed for departmental scholarships, talent awards, diversity awards, church matching and academic awards.

Other scholarships, such as the church-matching scholarship, match funds given to students from their home churches, up to $500. Sometimes, these scholarships go unused.

“There are occasions of unused scholarships when the specific qualifications are so limited that no student qualifies,” Olson said. “For example, there is a scholarship for a student from a particular city, a small town and the student goes to the Presbyterian church in that town and would receive that scholarship. If we don't have a student from that town, then it doesn’t happen.”

Unused scholarship money does not sit around, Olson said. The money from un-awarded scholarships is always saved and allowed to accumulate interest on the funds until it is awarded as the donor specifies.

Departmental scholarships are available from every department at Whitworth. The exact dollar amount of individual scholarships could not be disclosed, said Alan Mikkelson, associate professor of communication studies.

“Every department has scholarships that go to top students,” Mikkelson said. The communications department awards six departmental scholarships every year; two each for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“This is great for us because then we can give money out to a broad number of students and that’s our general philosophy as well,” Mikkelson said.

Every department has its own system for scholarships. Faculty determine whether a scholarship will be awarded for an essay, a competition or on some academic base, such as the highest GPA within a department.

“The process for deciding is usually what the donor has put into place when the scholarship was set up,” Olson said. “Sometimes it’s a committee, sometimes it’s the department that the applicant is majoring in, sometimes it’s a person or everyone that meets the criteria.”

In some departments such as music, scholarships can be applied toward the payment of music lessons and other high cost training.

“The music department is the reason why I can afford to Whitworth,” sophomore Tanner Walker said. They have helped me so much and I really appreciate how generous they were to me. There's a careful balance between playing ability and financial need. There's an audition process and that also contributes to how much scholarship a person gets, but it's balanced like I said before.”

Many scholarships are automatically awarded, such as the Diversity Scholarship and academic scholarships, Olson said. The Diversity Scholarship is awarded to students of underrepresented ethnicities or students who lived outside their own culture in the past four years. Academic scholarships are given to students with certain GPAs, usually above 3.0, according to the Whitworth website.

Incoming freshmen have many opportunities to earn scholarships, even full-tuition scholarships. The Act Six Program and the Honors Colloquium competition provide full-tuition scholarships to incoming freshmen through competitions. Hundreds of students compete for the full-tuition scholarships provided through those programs.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford Whitworth if I didn’t get the Act Six scholarship,” freshman Austriauna Brooks said. “The training from Act Six has helped me so much in dealing with conflict and other situations.”

The Whitworth website provides a general online application for scholarships. Other scholarships not provided directly through Whitworth or Whitworth donors are linked on the financial aid section of the Whitworth website.

Each scholarship has a different process for deciding recipients.

“The process for deciding is usually what the donor has put into place when they set up the scholarship program; sometimes it’s a committee, sometimes it’s the department that the applicant is majoring in,” Olson said.

Students have to maintain a certain standard to keep the scholarships they won. Scholarships can be lost just as easily as they can be awarded.

“We have had students where their scholarships were taken away,” Olson said. “One of the reasons usually is when a student is not making satisfactory academic progress, and then have it taken away.”

Students also can lose scholarships for changing their major if they have a departmental or talent scholarship. For example, if a student has a talent scholarship for music and then switches to a business major, they will not get the talent scholarship the next year.

“It’s all tied in with participation,” Olson said.

Participation plays a role in earning scholarships as well. One scholarship, an oratory contest that was held last Thursday at Whitworth, only had 10 participants.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for students to help pay for college,” Mikkelson said. “Most of the scholarships available at Whitworth go directly to tuition. We’re just amazed sometimes, especially on the writing awards, that most people don’t turn in stuff.”

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