Despite the virtual semester, as well as the decrease in freshman enrollment this year, the Office of Financial Aid, Student Employment and Scholarships has reported few difficulties with gift aids for the Fall 2020 semester.
According to Jennifer Fisher, associate director of Scholarship Programs, more scholarships have been awarded this semester compared to former years.
“We’ve had an increase in the amount of scholarship funding given to students during this time, despite the drop in enrollment. There have been many new scholarship opportunities added at UCCS over the last few years. We also had an influx of giving to help students who were financially impacted by the pandemic,” Fisher wrote via email.
Jevita Rogers, senior executive director of Financial Aid, Student Employment and Scholarships, agreed that scholarship funding and distribution experienced an increase during this time, though she added that this is a normal pattern and that the constant ebb and flow of funding was not a particular anomaly this year.
According to Rogers, nothing has really changed for the Office of Financial Aid, and the issues they faced were not unique to this semester.
Rogers expressed that the only real issue was that there were more students who needed money this semester, and that the Office of Financial Aid initially did not have enough money to help these students. The Office of Financial Aid was eventually able to provide aid through funding received by the state and additional donors.
“The very good news was that we received 4 million [dollars] in grants from the federal government through a program called the CARES Act that assisted students in the spring and summer semesters. For the fall semester, we received just over $900k from CU President Kennedy and the CU Foundation to assist some students,” Rogers wrote via email.
Besides having a large pool of students needing aid, there were only a few other issues that the scholarship department faced, and most turned out to be beneficial in the end.
Fisher expressed that the biggest impact of the pandemic was the loss of in-person events and classes. Otherwise, there were not many other significant changes to scholarships and grants at UCCS, and the changes that did take place were carried out for the safety of students and staff.
Requirements to qualify for aid have generally stayed the same, according to Rogers, since scholarships are distributed based on donor-inscribed requirements.
However, Fisher said she noticed that donors and scholarship administrators were shifting their requirements to place more focus on students’ present and future goals, rather than on their past challenges. This change was made to minimize implicit bias in the selection process. Additionally, the Office of Financial Aid has provided training to scholarship administrators and selection committees in the past year to further reduce implicit bias.
Interviews have shifted to Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and both Rogers and Fisher have praised this change as it has allowed for more students to apply and interview.
As for the future, Fisher has been working on trying to incorporate more faculty and professors on scholarship advertisements.
Fisher explained that each university has a special position on its campus, called a scholarship coordinator, whose job is essentially to work with faculty and staff to help them spread the word about scholarship opportunities. The idea is that students will be more inclined to apply to these scholarships if they hear directly from their professors.
Rogers recently applied for a grant that would be specifically for the upcoming Spring 2021 semester.
“There was a grant that I applied for specific to the spring semester from the state of [Colorado] and if that is approved, that will give us an additional $300k for in-state students,” Rogers said.
You can follow the Office of Financial Aid on Twitter and Facebook for important updates, deadlines, and additional opportunities.
Students can apply for financial aid through FAFSA and gift aid here.