The Oregon State University Scholarship Office is offering students flexibility within scholarship eligibility and awards-deferral offers in order to encourage students, faculty and staff to reach out for help.
“During the pandemic, we have definitely focused much more heavily on anything that can be used for students who find themselves having extra financial need,” said Colleen Conniff, director of scholarships at OSU. “We direct to students who had exceptional circumstances where they have unexpected expenses, job loss, housing, that kind of thing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has left students trying to adapt quickly which requires accommodations from scholarship programs. The application process for these scholarships has adjusted, and no longer requires the same administrative requirements.
“Rather than having students go through those traditional application processes, what we created were ways for students to basically just submit a statement online,” Conniff said. “So it wasn’t a formal scholarship application, essays or letters of recommendation [or] a GPA requirement; none of those things were required, it was as simple as a brief statement in a paragraph describing the circumstances.”
OSU received money from the federal government through the CARES Act funding but has paid out all the funding. The university also has distributed Beaver Care scholarships, which has more than 3,000 donors and more than $1 million contributed. These grants to students range from $500 to $1,000 per student.
Along with this funding, there are other scholarships offered by the collaboration of OSU colleges and departments with the main purpose of addressing student’s needs due to COVID-19.
International students at OSU are eligible for Beaver Care, but were not eligible for the CARES Act, which is one significant difference from domestic students who are eligible for both, said Shain Panzeri, director of International Admissions.
“We also looked at external scholarships,” Panzeri said. “The Institute of International Education launched some sort of emergency scholarship funds to make sure that applicants will be considered for support.”
Conniff also said the University Scholars Program scholarships have been making a lot of modifications in terms of scholarship eligibility as well as Scholarship hold requests for individuals who need to take a break from their enrollment.
Instead of the full-time (at least 12 credits) enrollment requirement, students will be eligible for USP scholarships if they are enrolled at least half-time (6 credits or more) for the fall 2020 and winter 2021 terms.
LeAnn Joy Adam, the coordinator of National and Global Scholarships Advising, said “The programs have provided their scholarships, have been really flexible and really accommodating, and give students opportunities to defer their opportunities or their scholarships to the future.”
OSU’s Gilman Scholars were awarded a combined total of $27,000 that has been canceled due to COVID-19. However, seven undergraduate students awarded the prestigious Gilman scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year have had to put their resilience to use in new and creative ways.
“For the Gilman Scholarships… they completely change the rules to help students to accommodate change,” Adam said.“They can defer to anytime in the 2021-2022 academic year, they can even use the scholarship if they’ve already graduated, which has never been the case before. They can do that to do a virtual international study and internship programs if they want to.”
According to Adam, there is no evidence at this time that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on OSU’s funding resources.
“These organizations have been around for a very long time. Most of them are foundations that have large endowments and also, many of them are attached to the US government. So they have congressional appropriations that fund these awards. And so there’s no evidence at this point that any of them would decrease awards or go away or any such thing,” Adam said.