WCU to ‘revamp’ scholarship programs

Senior Amy Griffin and was taken by Paul Clark of the WCU Magazine and is taken in the Natural Science Building, 2015

Senior Amy Griffin and was taken by Paul Clark of the WCU Magazine and is taken in the Natural Science Building, 2015

The story produced/written with Alexey Rybakov and Kayla Riek.

It’s no secret that attending college in the United States can be quite expensive. Western Carolina University is part of the University of North Carolina system and is one of the most affordable colleges in the state. Many students say it isn’t affordable enough. For this reason, many students who seek a college degree apply for scholarships.

A scholarship is an award of financial aid which helps students to pay tuitions, fees, and other expenses relating to studies. There are many different criteria to determine if a student can receive a scholarship.

WCU offers many scholarships that have been established by alumni and other university donors. There are two main categories of scholarships offered by WCU – merit-based or need-based Foundation Scholarships. Receiving a scholarship can also depend on academic program of study, in or out-of-state residency, and GPA.

Statistics show that almost 73 percent of students at WCU receive some type of Financial Aid in the Fall 2015 semester. This is less compared to the previous three academic years, when the average number of students receiving Financial Aid was 81 percent. However, the university is planning to improve the situation. According to Matt Ellsworth, Financial Aid Counselor at WCU, the university currently is doing a major campaign to increase scholarships. It is projected that the 2016 spring semester will continue the growing number of students using Financial Aid services.

“Right now the endowment of WCU is probably slightly less than in some larger universities because they have more graduates, so we are planning to increase a number of graduating students which can help us to increase the donations,” says Ellsworth.

Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Sam Miller agrees, stating that it’s difficult to compare WCU to other UNC schools because of the differences in student enrollment, both past and present.

He says the university aims to use its’ strengths to make them stand apart and gain donors.

“This is another reason why WCU’s regional engagement mission and activities like athletics and fine arts performances all help build upon the pool of WCU alumni as supporters of WCU scholarships.”

Miller added that the Chancellor’s focus on scholarships is an important effort that helps WCU continue providing access to higher education for the students best prepared for college, as well as, keeping WCU affordable for all of our students and their families.

Despite these efforts the lack of current scholarships offered is felt by many students including Ali Adams. See her story.

In Fall 2015, only 16 percent of students receive Institutional or Outside Scholarships. Among these 16 percent of students, 3 percent receive Athletic Aid. Athletes at WCU are one of the categories of students who have full coverage of tuitions and fees through scholarships.

“Overall, there is a limited number of students at WCU who can cover all their expenses through scholarships,” explains Ellsworth.