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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Little Piece of (Financial) Freedom

Free money is closer than you think
Free money is closer than you think

With finals right around the corner, busy students could sure use a number of things. Since traveling back in time to actually go to class is still not an option and next month’s rent is due shortly, the too-fast-to-worry lives of college students everywhere can be more and more hectic at best and downright overwhelming for the most part. Throw in family life or a job and it’s pretty remarkable that there are as many people attending college as there already are.

If you were to ask a typical student at any university what the hardest part of college is, the most frequent answer probably wouldn’t be the tests or getting to class on time. Instead, one of the biggest headaches for many students is most likely money. It’s that old ball and chain that drags along everywhere we go, yelling at us to get a second job or skip next weekend’s party in order to save some money.

There is hope, however, and one way of breathing an interest-free sigh of relief. No, we’re not talking about plasma donation. Even though freedom might never be free, scholarships are, and during the 2005-2006 academic year, about 450 UMB students received approximately $1.5 million in scholarships.

Kelly McLaughlin is the head scholarship coordinator on campus and does everything short of going door to door to encourage students to apply.

“Getting the word out so people know to apply is definitely the most challenging part,” said McLaughlin. “Students are busy with school, working jobs, and going home to families. They have about 9000 things going on and preparing the application can be one more task on an already long list of things to do.”

The scholarship season is generally considered to be in the fall when the comprehensive scholarship application for continuing students is due. The criterion to apply includes a minimum 3.0 GPA, at least two full-time semesters on record, an essay, and a recommendation from a professor. Scholarships are still offered year-round although the majority are available in the fall.

Currently, almost all scholarships require in-state residency, which limits a large number of international and out-of-state students, but McLaughlin believes the university is moving towards developing programs without the residency restriction.

Besides scholarship opportunities, both residents and non-residents have financial aid as another resource. Most scholarships can affect a student’s need based eligibility but can help lower loans and extra hours needed at a job.

Unlike financial aid, scholarships are merit-based, meaning a proven academic record. The thought of applying probably brings back memories of filling out applications in high school for hours at a time, but UMB has a universal form which is due November 12th. After applications are turned in, a committee evaluates the applications and determines the prospective awards over winter break.

The impact of scholarships is obvious, and students who research outside of campus will find the number of scholarships out there to be more than expected. Type the word “scholarship” in Google and more than 362 million pages will come up. Websites like Scholarships.com, Fastweb and College Board can help students search across the country for large and small amounts of cash that are just waiting to tell that second boss to take a hike.

The raising tuition is definitely not helping students either. The 2005 Annual Survey of Colleges, reported by the College Board, details the trends of two- and four-year colleges in the United States. For 2005, figures showed that the increases in tuition and fees at public institutions have been significantly higher in the early 2000s than in the preceding decades. According to the report, tuition and fees at public four-year colleges have risen at an average rate of 6.9 percent over the last decade.

Room and board is another factor that greatly impacts the college costs.

Total tuition, fee, room and board charges are more representative of the total price of a year of college than tuition and fees alone, according to College Board. Then there are books, transportation, food, and other living expenses.

And just when you thought it’s not that bad, according to College Board’s report, tuition and fees in all sectors are highest in the New England and Middle States regions. The average difference between a public four-year college in the West and one in New England is a whopping $3,000. And a cockroach-free three-bedroom apartment over there sure doesn’t start at $500 (try $300).

Wait! Before everyone starts ditching college to pursue a degree in ice coffee at Dunkin Donuts, remember there is hope. Even if Big Brother isn’t handing out grants like he used to, the help of a scholarship or two is there for anyone who can walk four floors up (or take the elevator) and fill out the appropriately green-colored application.

The first step is always the hardest, but at least there’s seven months before that step is due. Don’t put it off though, if Shakespeare had went to college, he would have made many a trite plays about the tragic flaw of college students everywhere: procrastination.