After rapid expansion, BGSU restructures financial aid array

Following several years of rapid growth in scholarship funding, BGSU is refocusing its undergraduate scholarship program to direct more of its reduced resources toward Ohio students with the greatest financial need.

In response to escalating costs and shrinking state support for higher education, BGSU has had to reprioritize its goals. It will move away from scholarships that were awarded automatically to students who met the scholarship criteria and toward those that are reviewed on an individual basis, and set a limit on the total amount of money that can be awarded.

“In tight funding times, helping provide access to affordable higher education is critical,” said Dr. Chris Dalton, senior vice president for finance and administration.

As a result of the restructuring, 15-18 freshman scholarships funded through University fees will be discontinued or capped for 2007. The cuts touch all aspects of the University and “will affect many students in some way,” according to Dr. Alberto Gonzalez, vice provost for academic services.

“It really came down to a matter of fiscal responsibility,” said Laura Emch, acting director of Student Financial Aid. “These were painful decisions that no one wanted to make, but we have seen this coming for some time and we knew it had to be done to keep within our budget.

“No one currently enrolled will be affected by the changes,” she said. It is important, however, that faculty, advisors, parents and students who may have siblings are aware of the new situation, she added.

Despite the downsizing, the current level of scholarship funds is still higher overall than in the past, Dalton noted. “Even though the $26 million offered in scholarship support in 2007 is less than last year’s total, it is twice what BGSU provided in 2004 and nearly three times the total from 2002,” he pointed out. To keep a four-year education in reach, the University has been aggressive in increasing financial aid where possible as tuition has risen, and has made scholarship support a major focus of the Centennial Campaign for BGSU, he said.

Designing the best package
Dalton and former Provost John Folkins collaborated with Emch and financial aid staff members in deciding how to sculpt the best overall financial package for students within the bounds of the University budget. Advice and participation came from a number of people across campus, including Gonzalez, Admissions Director Gary Swegan, the alumni association and student organizations.

The group considered about 30 models of combinations of academic merit and need-based scholarships to find one that would meet the University’s goals for recruitment and retention, Emch said.

“We have almost been too successful with our scholarships,” she and the other team members said of the enrollment growth the aid spurred. For example, BGSU has had great success in recruiting out-of-state and alumni legacy students with its BG Success program, which halved the out-of-state premium on tuition.

BG Success, when combined with other available scholarships, meant that in some cases, students received full scholarships. Under the new guidelines, BG Success continues but full awards will no longer be offered to incoming out-of-state students.

Supplemental scholarships for National Merit Scholar semifinalists and finalists are also being phased out. The University will make efforts to find other awards to help those students who would have received them, said Interim Provost Mark Gromko.

In keeping with the increased emphasis on need and consideration of individual situations, applications for scholarships from underrepresented students will be individually reviewed instead of aid being automatically awarded, and a set of eligibility criteria will be applied. Once the available pool of funds has been awarded, no further scholarships will be given.

A dollar limit affects the academic (or “grid”) scholarships as well, Gonzalez said. These include the President’s and University Professors scholarships and the Academic Achievement Awards.

Meanwhile, funding is being increased for Freshman Excellence Grants, and some additional money is being made available to transfer students.

In light of the scholarship changes, a number of recruitment strategies are being implemented, Gonzalez said. They include stronger recruitment efforts in the Toledo Public Schools and new efforts in 16 southeast Ohio counties, along with continued out-of-state recruitment to capitalize on the BG Success Scholarship.

February 26, 2007