Give Me My **** Scholarship

By Edward O'Brien

I have to admit that when I received my tuition bill I felt guilty. With my parents nearing retirement age, suddenly they have to put me and my twin brother through college. It was not just the price of college I felt guilty about, however. It was the price of Middlebury — my brother’s tuition bill was a little over half of mine. Now, I understand that Middlebury is a prestigious, world-class institution and I understand that that’s expensive to maintain; my point in this article is not a broad discussion about the inflated college price tag. But with the reality of the burden to my family on my back, I set out to find ways to make money.

I found a job as tech support at Children’s Hospital and started working about 40-45 hours per week over the summer. It was long, exceedingly dull, and incredibly tedious. But everyday I swiped in at 8:00 a.m. and swiped out at 5:53 (the first time that counted as 6:00 on the time card). Then I applied to and received several local scholarships from my church, high school, and town committee. By the end of the summer I had generated $7,500 toward my own education.

That is why I was so discouraged when I went to file one of my scholarships for $1,000 and all it did was lower the financial package that the college gave me. My family had turned down the loans because they didn’t want me to graduate with debt, so the scholarship came out of my financial aid package and didn’t help me at all. In order to understand how this works let’s pretend that my family had a total financial aid package of $20,000 after declining all loans.  Then, when we filed the $1,000 check with our first deposit of $5,000, my account read that I had a package of $19,000 and that our first payment was $1,000 short. Essentially, my family still had to pay $5,000 despite my outside scholarship, and the college received $6,000 — $5,000 out of our pockets and $1,000 from my scholarship.

This  is called the Outside  Institutional Aid Policy. It is when the college feels a student has been “over-awarded”. The logic behind it is, as Michael Mclaughlin, director of financial aid operations, puts it: “Since Middlebury meets the full demonstrated need of students as determined by our office, we do not allow outside aid to reduce or replace the expected family contribution.” I understand that Middlebury is expensive, and while we are a rich institution, we do have a limited yearly budget that we can funnel into financial. But this logic also strikes me as distinctly flawed.

My first issue with over-awarding is just the principle of the thing. It prevents students from using one of the onlyw means we have of making money to offset the cost to our parents. Shouldn’t the College be encouraging its student body to contribute to their education? Our brains got us into Middlebury. We should be allowed to use them to lessen the burden on our families rather than working for hours for minimum wage to make the slightest dent in our tuition bills. I don’t see why it should matter to the college where the money comes from.

Secondly, this “full need” strikes me as distinctly arbitrary. First of all, why is my family’s full need at my brother’s school twice what it is at Middlebury? And second, if what Mr. Mclaughlin says is true and “the maximum Perkins or College loan a student will borrow over a 4-year period is $12,000” and it is also true that Middlebury meets full need, then why do I have senior friends graduating with closer to $30,000 of debt?

Thirdly, as I’ve mentioned, I have a twin brother. My parents are paying for two kids’ college educations. Middlebury’s policy for families with another sibling in college, as is apparently the industry standard, is to make my family pay sixty percent of the original parent contribution. Not fifty percent, which would meet full need as they define it, sixty percent. So when it comes down to it, Middlebury is not even meeting my full need in the first place. And still I cannot use outside scholarships to improve my situation.

Finally, if you are on aid, outside scholarships essentially can in no way improve your financial situation, unless you earn more than your grant in scholarships. But if you have no grant, there is nowhere for Middlebury to take the money out of. Therefore, students here who are not on financial aid can benefit from outside scholarships. In other words, the well-off can use scholarships to decrease their tuition, but less wealthy students, who are on aid, cannot.

I’m not saying the college needs to redefine full need, though honestly that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I know that higher education is a tricky business and there are limited funds each year. I’m just saying that they need to give me the chance to add to my family contribution with the only access to significant sums of money I have: outside scholarships. It shouldn’t matter where the money I pay to Middlebury comes from. As it is, I don’t see any point in applying to scholarships this year. But, should I receive a scholarship, and should it be made out to Middlebury, I think this year I’ll tear it up and throw it away, because if I can’t use the money I earned, Middlebury certainly isn’t getting their hands on it.

Artwork by JENA RITCHEY

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Give Me My **** Scholarship