USF scholarship donations on the rise

More donors are attempting to help students get through college by donating to USF’s scholarship funds. However, fewer students seem to be applying.

Jay Wilson, USF Foundation director of communications said it is possible that many donors were more interested in donating to the Foundation this year because they would like USF students to benefit in the same way that they have.

“Scholarships were a big part of their lives so when it’s time to give back, they want to give back to students,” he said.

Wilson said it’s hard to make a blank statement about donors, however, because each donor gives for their own reasons.

Billie Jo Hamilton, director of the Financial Aid Office, said the economic situation might prompt donors to give more scholarship money this year.

“Those who have the capacity to donate are more aware because of the news reports of the economy in general,” she said. “I think that people are really aware right now of the struggles college students are facing with regards to financing their education.”

Hamilton said that when she first began working at USF, scholarships available at the University were scattered throughout different department and school Web sites. There was no central scholarship search location for students.

“What it caused students was to really have to go back and look for them,” she said. “You really had to hunt.”

The Financial Aid Office implemented a new feature, the USF Scholarship Search, on the office’s Web site, Hamilton said. Students can look for scholarships according to their major, college, campus and other factors.

“It’s a one-stop-shop concept,” she said. “If a student at USF wants to find a scholarship, here it is.”

The USF Foundation is a not-for-profit entity that is authorized to accept private gifts from private donors and corporations and distribute them to University students. The foundation awards scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students.

This year, the total amount of scholarship money distributed by the Foundation increased, but the number of students who received scholarships decreased.

Wilson said 1,951 students received a total of $1,346,882.60 in scholarship money from the USF Foundation in fall 2007. In fall 2008, the number of students who received scholarships decreased to 1,920 and a total of $1,780,087.71 was awarded.

The total amount of funding students received from all sources also increased, Hamilton said. In 2006-2007, USF students were awarded $50,750,515 in scholarships. In 2007-2008, the amount rose to $54,567,497. These figures include state, institutional and private scholarships, and some federal scholarships, Hamilton said. Figures for 2008-2009 are not yet available.

Some scholarships don’t receive any applicants, and the money sits there growing, Hamilton said.

“Part of the problem is that students don’t go through the work of filling out applications,” she said.

Andy Thompson, scholarship team manager at the Financial Aid Office, had similar thoughts.

“If you’re willing to put the effort into it, it will work out and you will get scholarships but it’s a numbers game,” he said. “You actually have to apply to be considered.”