Scholarship offers take drastic change in fall 2018
TNE Editor
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Scholarship offers take drastic change in fall 2018

Published 2/7/2018

Caleb Eutsler

TNE Writer

President’s Leadership Class and RiverHawks Impacting Student Enrollment are two scholarships that have impacted hundreds of students who have gone through each of the programs. Both scholarships give students opportunities to excel in academics, service and leadership.

RISE is a leadership service program designed to get students involved on campus and focus on community engagement.

“I have loved every minute that I have been involved with RISE,” said Kaylee Switzer, RISE president. “I have grown as a person and a leader through this program, and it has allowed me to branch out and join other groups on campus and foster relationships with faculty and my peers.”

PLC is a leadership-oriented program designed to initiate potential in students who were leaders in their high school years.

“It has been a surreal blessing for me,” said Billy Gordon, PLC junior from Walika. “I have gained a family at NSU through PLC. It has encouraged me, influenced me, helped me network and, most of all, supported me throughout college.”

Depending on what the students have achieved in high school, along with GPA and ACT calculations, applications will determine what scholarship students are offered. PLC offers $5,402 to each of their scholars per semester, while RISE offers $4,6777 to each one of their scholars per semester. High school seniors are carefully selected for interviews based on their online applications. Following the interviews, students are then awarded one of the scholarships.

“We have a great group of students now that came to NSU because of both programs,” said Kin Thompson, PLC adviser. “I don’t know how future scholars are going to outshine the kids we already have. They really are the best of the best.”

In the fall of 2018 RISE is coming to an end at NSU.

“At the end of the day we were looking at two scholarships that were basically getting the same amount of money,” said Dr. Jerrid Paul Freeman, vice president of Student Affairs. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why don’t we ensure there is consistency and strengthen just one single program?’ It was more logical to make PLC stronger because it is a statewide scholarship. To be completely clear, students that would have got RISE next semester will actually go to PLC now.”

Remaining students in the RISE program will be able to continue their awarded years, but the class of 2021 will be the last RISE class.

“I feel sad for RISE,” said Gordon. “I know that the program impacted many students on campus. They served, loved and influenced. They stood out among others, and to see the program go saddens me that others in years to come won’t get to experience any part of it.”

Since May 2016, the budget in Oklahoma for higher education has taken drastic cuts. The budget has been cut six percent in between the year of 2016 and 2017. The state budget was cut to $773.5 million for colleges across the state, a decrease of $36 million from the previous year. Because of these changes, each university took more than six percent cuts from their previous budgets.

 “We have been struggling with the cuts that come from the state, but I wouldn't say that this decision was based on all of that,” said Freedman. “As the amount the state gives us starts to decline, so does the amount of money that goes into our scholarship budget. What ends up happening is you have a declining budget for scholarships but an increased cost for tuition, which means the amount of money you’re spending for the amount of awards you’re giving out increases with a lower budget. In this way you have to start taking away scholarships, and that’s not just RISE, that is across the board with every singe scholarship we give out.”

These budget cuts have resulted in the need for universities to find a way to compensate for the loss of funds. Tuition on campuses has risen, and scholarship programs have had to cut back on their awarded waivers, including programs like RISE.

 “RISE has changed so much since it was first implemented on campus,” said Jessica Langston, senior scholarship coordinator. “It used to be a two-year program that wasn’t focused on service, and your second year you were supposed to help the recruiting office. So now, it has become so much like PLC that is hard to differentiate between the two, and this is how it has all happened, because of the success of RISE.”

RISE and PLC have awarded close to the same amount of scholarship dollars in years past. The programs have only differed in how those dollars are allocated, whether they go toward tuition, housing or stipends. As RISE comes to an end, PLC will be offering more spots to make up for the loss.

“I wouldn’t say this loss was the driving force behind the decision to take away RISE,” said Freedman. “We asked ‘Why did they get this, why did they get that?’ With this, we didn’t want the students to compare themselves, asking which one was better, which was happening. We know that taking away a program isn’t awesome, but we also know that futuristically it is going to be better for the scholars. There is going to be no competition, no comparison and the students will get a better scholarship at the end of the day.”

While RISE will come to an end, PLC will grow as a program and accept more students.

“Although I am sad to see this wonderful program come to an end, I am so excited to see the new changes to the program,” said Switzer. “NSU will be impacted regardless, and I am so thankful for the time that I have been able to take part in that. All in all, continuing just one program will provide better scholarship opportunities to incoming students and strengthen the organization.”

Although RISE will come to and end, more students will be able to receive PLC than before. With more than $5,000 awarded a semester, students will be able to go to NSU on almost a full ride. Current PLC scholars will not be affected by this change, but will get the opportunity of connecting with younger generations of students to come.

“It is sad, it is exciting, it is bittersweet,” said Thompson. “When we tried to differentiate both of the programs, it just became so difficult. They were the same kind of quality kids. PLC is leadership and RISE is service. In this way, it was very difficult to show the difference between the two scholarships. We tried for years, and it just wasn’t happening. As the cost of tuition, housing and the cost of running both programs became astronomical for the university, we were looking for ways to give the most we can. It eventually became too much. We decided to move forward: to combine the scholarships and focus on just one group of students and expect more of their leadership on campus.”

Though next fall will mark the end of an influential program, the door will be opened for PLC to make a bigger impact then ever before.

“After meeting with the RISE scholars, although some are disheartened, overall I think everyone is welcoming of the changes and is excited for the new opportunities that will come to the combined program,” said Switzer.

In previous years, PLC offered 15 students the four-year scholarship waiver. In fall of 2018, PLC will offer scholarships to 20 freshmen. Waivers will transition over from RISE, allowing PLC to offer more.

“Everyone is going to be impacted by this, and not everyone is going to be happy,” said Freeman. “But this is the best thing to do for the future.  Transparency is never the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do.”

For more information and to learn more about the programs and upcoming changes, visit nsuok.edu/scholarships.


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