Owen Cherry / The Mainstream
Honey McNamara stands beside a UCC Foundation Scholarships sign at the Student Resource Fair.

Scholarships provide students with alternatives to student loans for financing tuition

Attending college is expensive. Often students take out loans to cover tuition, but scholarships offer many students with a better way to pay for college.

“42 percent of those who attend college, representing 30 percent of all adults, have incurred at least some debt from their education,” said a Report on the Economic Well-Being of U. S. Households 2017-2018 published by the Federal Reserve. “Adults under the age of 30 who attended college are more likely to have taken out student loans than older adults, consistent with the upward trend in educational borrowing over the past several decades.”

Loans and interest have to be repaid after graduation, and often interest begins accruing even before students have graduated. However, loans are not the only option for students to cover the cost of a college education. Many universities and community colleges offer need and merit-based scholarships that can significantly reduce the cost of attendance. Scholarships do not have to be repaid, and this lessens the financial pressure on students in school and graduates just entering the workforce.

 Most scholarship applications have several sections. Understanding the requirements for a scholarship and how to make your application stand out among many are key to scholarship success.

Often scholarship applications require reference letters. Excellent reference letters from professionals are an important part of a strong application, says Honey McNamara, the scholarship and donor relations coordinator for UCC. Good references can include past or present professors, employers or community leaders who have spent significant time with the applicant.

Another key part of a good scholarship application includes essays. Often applications require applicants to write essays answering specific questions. Questions are commonly related to the applicant’s education and career plans, experiences overcoming hardship or difficulty and values and character. “Students should understand that their application should look professional and be free of grammatical errors,” says McNamara. “I always say that a student’s scholarship application is like a job interview for which they don’t get to be present. It needs to shine and include pertinent information.”

Students often think that scholarships are only for students who are at the top of their classes. However, the biggest scholarship at UCC has only a 2.0 GPA minimum. “One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is not applying,” says McNamara. “Thinking that only students with extreme financial need or stellar grades get scholarships is not the truth.” Other factors can make a student with average grades stand out. “Having a clear career path . . . and being involved in the community on a regular basis also make for a strong application,” says McNamara.

UCC has several main sources of scholarships for students. The UCC Foundation offers many scholarships for students. During the 2018-2019 academic year over 376 scholarships were award to 244 students, according to the UCC website. The scholarship came from more than 100 different endowments and adding up to over $473,000 in financial support.

In order to apply for UCC Foundation scholarships, students must first apply for admission to UCC and complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA for the 2020-2021 academic year opened on Oct. 1. The UCC Foundation scholarship application opens on Feb. 11 and is due by March 20. “Students should complete FAFSA close to the opening date of Oct. 1 each year, so they have the information ready to plug into scholarship applications,” says McNamara.

Another scholarship opportunity for UCC students is through the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC). In the academic year 2017-2018 329 UCC students applied for scholarships through OSAC, and 84 UCC students received over $320,000 in scholarship aid according to the OSAC website. The OSAC scholarship application is open from Nov. through March 1, with an early bird scholarship available for applications submitted by Feb. 15.

In addition to UCC Foundation and OSAC scholarships students can apply for outside scholarships, such as scholarships through the two-year college honor society Phi Theta Kappa or foundations such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

UCC students who are planning to transfer to a four-year university should also apply for scholarships at the university where they are transferring. Different universities have different deadlines for when admission and scholarship application submission must be due. Transferring students can find the current deadlines on the website of their chosen school. Students with questions regarding applications for UCC Foundation scholarships can contact Honey McNamara, the Scholarship and Donor Relations Coordinator for UCC at (541) 440-7674 or scholarships@umpqua.edu.

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