The Voice: Emergency scholarship exposes need for aid changes

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Emergency scholarships like the one UCA offers are incredibly helpful to students who find themselves in a tough financial situation, and these efforts should be applauded as the positive influences that they are. At a time when tuition prices drive most students to take out huge loans and work full time on top of school, it is comforting to know that there are some within the university who are looking out for students.

Though the individual sums aren’t that much in comparison with tuition, having a few hundred extra dollars for books can mean the difference between having food or not. For some of us, especially those who have experienced “emergency” situations or who can’t get further aid, it is commendable that so many in the UCA community have pledged to help fund this endeavor. Hopefully this trend will continue for years to come.

Perhaps more importantly, if this trend does continue, there is a real possibility that this aid will reach more students, or will at least give qualified students more aid to work with. If donors can be expected to continue being generous, this scholarship fund will continue to do a lot of good.

However, there is no real guarantee that this scholarship fund will remain intact, except those guarantees by individual donors.

While it is incredible that individuals have stepped up to help students in need, it only speaks to
a broken system that necessitates emergency funding.

When students are given $500 in emergency funding for textbooks and other supplies, it should be painfully obvious that textbooks alone are far too expensive.

Any college student or professor could vouch for this fact, a fact which has literally been the breaking point for many college students. If you can’t pay for books, you can’t expect to do well in the class.

It is absurd that a student can get into college and pay for tuition, but possibly forfeit their education because they can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars for books. So while this emergency scholarship fund is doing a very noble thing by trying to alleviate this pressure for certain students, the problem still persists and still cripples many students financially.

Perhaps we should expand on what we consider an “emergency” situation. Is it only an emergency when a source of income runs dry?

For many students, there was never a source of income in the first place. Because of this, we see unprecedented amounts of student loans in this country. Shouldn’t this also be an emergency?

Additionally, there are millions of people who never even got to dream about college because of the high price tag. This is also an emergency.

The point isn’t that the emergency scholarship fund is useless – it obviously helps a lot of students get through tough time, and that’s what it is meant to do. It isn’t mean to fix all of the problems in our system, merely to alleviate one of its symptoms. But someone does need to fix the problems in our system.

As poverty levels rise alongside tuition rates, less people will have access to quality education unless there is a coherent strategy to lower tuition, lower book costs, and reduce the amounts of student loans.

If we won’t give our students education for free, we should at least help them get it somehow.

This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2016 print edition of The Echo.

image via thesocietypages.org

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