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Scholarship policies

Based on the changing higher education environment, we are considering some changes to our scholarship policy and would like to hear from other foundations. Scholarships are a big piece of our work and we want to make sure they continue to be relevant and serve students, as well as carry out our donors' wishes. Our scholarships are "last in" and we verify their college expenses prior to payment.

Do you allow scholarships to be deferred? If so, are there any established terms or conditions for deferring?

Do you allow unused scholarship money to carry forward to another year?

Can renewable scholarships be applied for graduate school if a student completes undergrad work with renewable years remaining on the scholarship?

How do you handle a renewable scholarship for a student who will complete undergrad work with renewable years remaining on the scholarship? Do they forfeit that money?

I would love to hear other scholarship issues your foundation is considering as well.

KaraAdamsMeliaSwirsky

Comments

  • elizabethmesserlielizabethmesserli Posts: 21
    World Traveler U.S.A. 10 Comments Grant Lifecycle Manager (GLM)
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    edited May 4

    Hi @DavetteSwiney,

    Scholarships are just a small part of what we do at the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado (about 3% of our 500+ funds under management). We are also looking to update our scholarship program and policies, so I'm interested to continue following this thread.

    To answer your questions:

    1) We do allow scholarships to be deferred 1 year. The student just needs to let us know they are deferring and we confirm it with [if any] living donor/fund advisor. It's really more of an informing practice as our Foundation policy/practices allow for it. We also ask the student to reach back out to us as they register for the next year's classes (this is more to confirm they will continue their education, and so we know they're staying at the school they were at the first year).

    2) We are not a last-in scholarship so we send the checks each fall and the schools in our area all have the policy that if the scholarship is above $1,000 (which most of ours are), then they automatically break it up between the student's two semesters. There was only one time in the last three years that there was any unused funds that were returned to the foundation because the student received other scholarships that covered their entire bill. The funds came back to our Foundation as requested in our scholarship grant award letter (which is sent directly to the university). The student was graduating that year so the funding just went back into the scholarship fund at our Foundation to help future students.

    3) This depends on the donor's intention. We have only two renewable scholarships. For one, the donor was open to the funds being used for grad school. The other wanted it to be specifically for undergrad. For our other one-time scholarships, the donors' intentions specified that the funding be used to support high school seniors going into college/university (so grad school wouldn't apply in these circumstances).

    4) For our scholarships, the recipients must be students. If there are renewable years remaining on the scholarship opportunity and the student graduates (=they are no longer students), then yes, the remaining money is forfeited. It goes back into the scholarship fund to help other future students.


    Let me know if I can help answer any other questions.

    Elizabeth

    KaraAdamsMeliaSwirsky
  • DavetteSwineyDavetteSwiney Posts: 8
    Groundbreaker Second Compass Anniversary Photogenic 5 Likes
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    Thanks for your response Elizabeth.

    Our scholarships are last-in and with a reasonably priced, community college, we often have students who can't use their award in the first 2 years, therefore we are considering letting that accrue for subsequent years. We also have an increasing number of students graduating high school with an associate's degree, so they only use 2-3 years of a 4-year renewable scholarship. So we are considering a "balloon" payment for their last year of their remaining scholarship award or allowing it to be used for Grad school.

    Anyone else have experience with these situations?

    KaraAdamsMeliaSwirsky
  • leeahmahonleeahmahon Posts: 8
    Conversation Starter Foundant Scholarship Management+ Certificate Scholarship Lifecycle Manager (SLM) First Compass Anniversary
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    edited August 10

    Hi @DavetteSwiney,

    Our Foundation has a fairly large scholarship program with over 80 scholarship funds, 23 of which are renewable.

    1.) We allow scholarships to be deferred for one school year. We began allowing deferrals when the pandemic hit, and were only allowing deferrals for COVID-related reasons, but have since opened up the criteria for allowing deferrals. This has been an important change for us because we have had several situations where students have excess aid and can't use their scholarship in the year it is awarded (especially college freshman, who tend to receive a lot of one-off scholarships as HS seniors), but will need it in the next school year. The student has the option on their Follow-Up Form to accept their offer, decline their offer, or request a deferral and explain why they are requesting it. We reserve the right to deny the deferral request depending on the students' reasoning.

    3.) We do not allow unused scholarship money to carry over. For accounting purposes, scholarships can only be used in the year they are awarded, unless a deferral has been approved. We don't, for example, allow use of half of a scholarship in the year it is awarded and then deferral of the other half until the next school year. Our scholarship letter (sent directly to the institution with the check) also explicitly states that the funds should be divided across semesters/terms for the maximum benefit of the student and can be used for any education-related expenses, but any unused funds must be returned to the Foundation. If a student knows they will be living off-campus, for example, and want to use their scholarship to pay for their off-campus housing, we have a section on our Follow-Up Form where they can report that and we can review it and, if needed, approve a refund of a specific amount to the student for this purpose. (We consider tuition & fees, books, required course supplies, and room & board to be education-related expenses; these are the categories for which students can upload additional documentation if they are wanting to use their scholarship towards these things, but they are not billed through their institution and therefore don't appear on their invoice/statement of account they are also required to upload.)

    3.) It depends on the fund. Some specifically state that their scholarship can only be used for undergraduate studies, and some are more flexible.

    4.) Yes, they essentially will forfeit the remaining "renewals" if they graduate and have remaining "renewals"; if they are going to grad school and have more "renewals," it would depend on what the fund agreement says to whether or not they can use the scholarship for that coursework.


    I hope this helped! Happy to answer any more questions.

    Leeah

    DavetteSwineyMeliaSwirsky
  • DavetteSwineyDavetteSwiney Posts: 8
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    Thank you so much Leeah. Sounds like you have some similar situations and your perspective is helpful.

    Have a great weekend!

    Davette

    leeahmahonMeliaSwirsky
  • LizMcClureLizMcClure Posts: 16
    Conversation Starter Scholarship Lifecycle Manager (SLM) Second Compass Anniversary 5 Likes
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    Do you allow scholarships to be deferred? If so, are there any established terms or conditions for deferring?

    • We do allow deferrals for students that are participating in a planned gap year program or religious mission. These deferrals are typically for 1 or 2 years. In the last 5 years we've only had 2 deferrals that weren't for a religious mission trip out of around 400 scholarships each year so it's not something we see very often. We typically have about 5 students utilizing a religious mission deferment at any one time.

    Do you allow unused scholarship money to carry forward to another year?

    We do not, if a student has part of their funding returned due to withdrawing or over-award that money is forfeited if they can't reclaim it during the school year. I.e. a student that transfers schools within the same school year can access their returned money but if they take a semester off and re-enroll the next school year the returned money is forfeited.

    Can renewable scholarships be applied for graduate school if a student completes undergrad work with renewable years remaining on the scholarship?

    We just have a few renewing scholarships and they all have language that explicitly states it is for undergraduate study only.

    How do you handle a renewable scholarship for a student who will complete undergrad work with renewable years remaining on the scholarship? Do they forfeit that money?

    If a student completes their program early our renewable scholarships require that they forfeit the money since they are for undergraduate use only. The committee previously was adamant that the student could only have the funding for the number of years that they have enrolled however they have become more lenient after the pandemic shut downs and are reviewing requests from students on a case by case basis as to whether they will allow a student graduating in 2 years to access any of the funds for the remaining 2 years of funding. One of our renewable funds also requires that the student be enrolled in 4 consecutive years to receive all 4 years of funding so they forfeit however many years are remaining if they take a gap year.

    I hope this helps!

    KaraAdamsMeliaSwirsky
  • DaraGannonDaraGannon Posts: 18
    Conversation Starter 10 Comments Second Compass Anniversary 5 Up Votes
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    We also allow deferrals for one year. It could be for any reason.

    We allow students to use their money in a subsequent year if they can't use it in their first year because of other scholarships, for example.

    Most of our scholarships are for undergraduate work, so it would depend on the fund and donor, but if a student completes their undergrad with renewable years remaining, we try to give them whatever they are owed in their last year or semester if they still have unmet need. So they are getting their full award amount but on a shorter timeline.

    Most of our renewable scholarships have a GPA requirement, and if they don't meet the requirement, we give them another semester to pull their grades up. Depending on the circumstance, we might use semester GPA instead of cumulative. We have become more flexible on this since the pandemic.

    Overall, we do whatever we can to give the recipients their full award. Of course, some donors are more flexible than others.

    One thing we're considering is whether we have a policy around a student receiving multiple awards. It happens every year and we are discussing if we want to put something in place so it can't happen. Right now, we just bring it to the committee or donor's attention but let them decide, and usually they still want to give it to their top student regardless of whether they are getting other awards from us.

    GrettaKrausKaraAdams
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