Philander Smith, UALR Offer New Scholarships to Students

A recent survey finds the pandemic is making it more challenging to pay for college.

Black graduation cap on $100 bills

A $250,000 gift from an anonymous donor will allow Philander Smith College to award $2,500 scholarships to 100 sophomores and juniors for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“We are so grateful that Philander Smith College is the recipient of this extremely generous and important gift,”said Philander Smith College President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “As we continue our legacy of providing opportunities for promising young scholars, it is gratifying to be supported by such a meaningful philanthropic gesture.” 

According to donor communication, the gift was made to support the “important work” being done by Philander Smith College to graduate academically accomplished scholars who are grounded as advocates for social justice.

“The issue of college affordability continues to hamper the dreams of many students and their families,” Smothers said. “However, when philanthropists like our anonymous donor step up, we are able to provide financial assistance to scholars who are not short on desire, but are often short of funds to see them through completion of their degrees.”

A College Ave Student Loans survey of 1,009 parents of college undergraduate students conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights and released in February found of those planning to help their child pay for college, about 52 percent said the pandemic will make it more difficult to pay this fall. 

Of those parents providing financial support, 45 percent said the pandemic changed how they planned to pay, with 51 percent using more savings, 45 percent borrowing more in student loans and 27 percent taking out a parent loan. Despite the challenges, 93 percent of families agree obtaining a college degree is more important than ever. 

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is implementing several new student aid initiatives to help make college more affordable amid the challenges of the pandemic. These efforts include new scholarships for freshmen that cover 50 percent of course tuition and fees, debt relief for students with balances from previous semesters, distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds to students and the implementation of a new scholarship program.

For the first initiative, UA Little Rock is offering first-time freshmen as well as new freshmen with 11 or fewer transfer credit hours a scholarship that covers half of their tuition and fees for the 2021-22 academic year. The scholarship is available to the first 1,000 students and is valued up to $5,000. It is funded through a combination of private and institutional funds.

“Combined with the recent 11 percent decrease in our institutional net price, the Trojan Strong scholarship provides exceptional opportunity for new freshmen students,” said Cody Decker, vice chancellor for student affairs and chief data officer. “We hope that students and their parents recognize this incredible value and take advantage of this unique opportunity to get a head start on an accessible and world-class education at UA Little Rock.”

The scholarship is available to freshmen who are unconditionally admitted to UA Little Rock and enroll in at least 12 credit hours for the fall semester. No additional application is needed. Students who earn a 2.25 GPA or higher during the fall semester may renew the scholarship for the spring semester. Recipients of the Trojan Strong scholarship will participate in student success initiatives that cover academic success, life skills and financial literacy.

In the second initiative, UA Little Rock is offering need-based scholarships to provide debt relief for current students with past balances of up to $5,000 so they can continue their education. These scholarships are funded as part of a $25 million donation from an anonymous donor the university received in 2020.

This need-based scholarship is available to part-time and full-time undergraduate students who were enrolled in the spring or summer 2021 semesters. Students eligible for this scholarship were directly contacted by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships and asked to complete the scholarship application by Aug. 13. 

Students who receive a scholarship to pay for a prior balance will meet satisfactory academic progress, participate in a newly developed online financial aid literacy program with information about financial resources and student aid opportunities and enroll for the fall semester.

UA Little Rock has received approximately $10 million in federal COVID-19 relief for students through the American Rescue Plan. These funds will be available at the start of the fall term and will be distributed in two ways. The first will provide direct relief for students, while the second will provide emergency grants for students in need.

Undergraduate students will receive direct aid through a formula-based approach. Full-time students are expected to receive between $420 and $720 through the direct aid formula.

Undergraduate and graduate students who need emergency aid may fill out an application for a grant. Full-time students can expect to receive between $250 and $750 through the application-based aid.

UA Little Rock has also launched a new scholarship system that automatically matches students with available scholarships inside and outside of the university.

ScholarshipUniverse is a one-stop shop for scholarships, including external, institutional and private scholarships. ScholarshipUniverse is web-based, mobile-friendly and uses both emails and text messages to communicate with students.

“This system enables a personalized approach to scholarships,” said Jonathan Coleman, director of financial aid and scholarships at UA Little Rock. “Improving the ability to match students to scholarships will help students move away from the application mindset and ease the burden of submitting multiple scholarship applications.”

UA Little Rock is the first university in Arkansas to implement ScholarshipUniverse, making it one of the first to automatically match students with available outside scholarships, according to a press release.

Instead of searching for eligible scholarships, students will answer a series of online questions and complete a scholarship profile. The answers will be used to match students with institutional and external scholarships using a number of criteria, which can include academic merit, program, desired career and extracurricular interests.