SGA Institutes Financial Aid for J-Term Workshops

By BOCHU DING

The Student Government Association (SGA) Finance Committee has allocated $2,500 to help students receiving financial aid pay for Winter Term workshops. The SGA has added other improvements intended to streamline the application process and improve accessibility to workshops.

Every year, the Student Activities office hosts non-credit, student-led workshops, ranging from board game building to log rolling. However, since the workshops program does not have its own budget and is entirely self-sustaining, there is a fee for enrollment.

The SGA’s financial aid program was first conceptualized by former president Karina Toy ’17, student activities dean Derek Doucet, and former finance committee chair Kevin Benscheidt ’17 in the winter of 2016.

At the time, average enrollment costs stood at $33.50, and Toy recognized that some could impose a financial burden on students who wished to participate.

The previous model relied on a two-step reimbursement process, which caused a number of students who could not register in time to lose their aid opportunity. Under the SGA’s new policy, the aid application is embedded in the registration process for the Winter Term workshops.

“There will be no upfront payment required and aid awardees will not be billed,” said Jin Sohn ’18, the current SGA president. “Students’ spots will be held in the workshop until their eligibility for aid has been confirmed. In order to maintain confidentiality the SGA will never see the names of students who apply for or receive aid, nor any of their financial information.”

The finance committee, including chair Peter Dykeman-Bermingham ’18.5 and deputy chair Isabella Martus ’19, worked with Doucet and the financial aid office to implement a model that both protected students’ privacy and made it convenient to apply for aid.

“[We] wanted to remove any perceived social stigma from applying. We all know that issues of socioeconomic status are present on our campus, and we were concerned that students might be reluctant to apply if they thought their peers would be involved in any way in the application process,” Doucet said.

“We therefore needed to come up with a way to ensure it was only college staff who reviewed the applications, while still providing transparency so the SGA could see, in general terms, how their money was spent.”

In the new model, the Student Activities office collects aid applications and cross-checks with the Student Financial Services office to ensure that the applications meet the criteria set forth by the SGA. By serving as the only line of communication with applicants, the Student Activities aims to ensure confidentiality of student financial aid status.

In addition, Doucet worked to ensure that SGA assistance would not impact recipients’ overall financial aid status.

Dykeman-Bermingham hopes the program will enable more students to participate in a quintessential aspect of Middlebury.

“J-Term workshops are Middlebury’s most explicit format for students to learn from their peers. They are so often odd, fun filled monuments of student passion and they should be part of everyone’s Middlebury experience,” he said.

Registration for the workshops begin midnight on Sunday, Nov. 19, and end on Sunday, Dec. 17. Aid applications close on Dec. 9, and are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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