Transfers deserve scholarship equity

by Matthew Mogavero / Beacon Correspondent • March 16, 2017

Emerson excludes current transfer students from their traditional merit scholarships, preventing them from attaining the same financial opportunities as other students. From my conversations with dozens of students during the past semester, it seems that only transfers themselves are aware of this inequitable reward system.  

At this time, non-transfer students—those here since their freshman year—can receive scholarships based on specific merit requirements such as GPA, community service, and leadership initiatives. Students who transferred into the college and meet the same requirements are not even considered for the same merit scholarships as entry level students. Before this year, the only way that a transfer student was awarded merit aid was if they meet the requirements with very particular circumstances for specific populations.

For example, the only scholarships awarded to transfer students were ones like the Miami Dade Scholarship, for students transferring from Miami. The Next Step Emerson Scholarship recipients must transfer from a small list of participating community colleges. Then there’s the Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship, which is awarded to a member of Phi Beta Kappa with an associate’s degree.

No doubt, all these scholarships help students, but we are still left with a dilemma. Many transfer students have been left out. They do not have the same opportunities to be considered for their work in the way that others are.  

Things are finally improving, though. Emerson’s Vice President of Enrollment Ruthanne Madsen and some of her colleagues have been working to address financial opportunities for transfer students throughout the last few semesters. She said the college has just established a scholarship for incoming transfer students coming from four-year universities. The Gateway Scholarship is a $10,000 annual award that goes toward the cost of full-time attendance, with a GPA requirement of 3.5, compared to the 3.0 requirement for other merit scholarships.

However, current transfer students are not grandfathered into the existing merit system, and it remains unclear how many of these awards will be given out to the incoming transfer pool.

The Board of Trustees must make it more of a priority to resolve this. This is especially important because tuition at Emerson has considerably shot up for over a decade. If the college doesn’t have the endowment to support more grants for transfer students, then they need to find the funds. They need to continue to be creative when it comes to putting a system in place that rewards all deserving students, no matter what point in their college careers they arrived at Emerson.

The Board of Trustees found it worthwhile to purchase a $4.9 million dollar presidential residence on Beacon Hill in 2011. The excessive purchase is a bit of a slap in the face to students who are looking for help as they incur massive amounts of debt to attend Emerson.

No nonprofit institution, whether a theater company, a hospital, or a university, should spend so lavishly on a property that does so little to directly benefit their students and constituents. Emerson has personally given me skills that I can use and build on after I graduate, but the school needs to help us out financially. For transfer students, the Gateway Scholarship is a start, but it doesn’t go far enough. We should be afforded the same opportunities as everyone else.

Students’ discontent with the lack of aid, or an unfair merit system cannot just be whispered about over homework or coffee, because nothing will happen. In years to come, some of us could find ourselves helping our kids take out loans bigger than ours, unless we organize and actively see to it that the system changes now. We need to start a conversation among the student body, our neighbors at other schools, and faculty to address this issue for transfer students and the larger flaws within the system.