By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter
When Liberty University discovered last summer that middle-income students were not enrolling at the school due to affordability issues—specifically because they did not qualify for large amounts of federal financial aid, yet still couldn’t cover the cost of tuition—officials agreed they needed to offer these students some other way to access higher education. That’s when the “Middle America Scholarship” was born.
Named for the population it seeks to serve, the Middle America Scholarship is meant to close the financial gap between what middle-income families pay and the cost of tuition at Liberty University, which, according to its website, will remain at $23,800 for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. The scholarship will allow students who don’t qualify for the maximum Pell Grant award to receive the equivalent of the full award when combined with the Liberty Champion scholarship, which is granted to residents based on their Expected Family Contributions (EFC).
The Middle America Scholarship will be offered for the first time in fall 2019 to new resident undergraduate students enrolled full-time with verified EFCs of $1 to $18,000. Ashley Ann Reich, vice president of student financial services at Liberty University, explained that students will receive up to $5,195 annually.
“We hear a lot from families within that middle-income range that say, ‘we don’t qualify for 100 percent need-based aid, but we don’t feel like we can afford tuition. How can you help us?’” Reich said. “Families typically earning between $35,000 to $95,000 are not always receiving enough aid. The scholarship provides a sense of relief to families that are sort of stuck in that middle ground.”
Liberty University invested $17.8 million to fund the scholarship, which Reich said is predicted to help more than 1,600 families.
“We’ve been blessed to be able to invest our own funding,” Reich said. “I think most schools would face the challenge of finding the money [for such a program]. This has to be a university, or college-wide, initiative. ”
Reich added that all schools should be constantly looking for ways to help students access higher education and discover where students are struggling. In fact, the Middle America Scholarship was founded after the university began charting where students fell in terms of matriculation last August.
“We found there was kind of a valley or a dip between certain EFC ranges. I think it’s important for schools to do an analysis like this on an annual basis, and find out where students are falling short,” Reich said. “This one change can make a world of a difference.”
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Publication Date: 2/26/2019
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