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COVID-19 Concerns in Scholarship Management (Session 3)

In this episode of Scholarship Coffee Talks; we discuss summer melt programming, award recipients, and university timelines.

Topics Covered:

  • Have you done “Summer Melt” programming in the past to keep students engaged with their upcoming college endeavors?
  • Will you be doing anything (new or established) to celebrate your award recipients this year?
  • What are we learning about timelines for universities for Fall and how does that affect your work?
  • Q & A

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Have you done “Summer Melt” programming in the past to keep students engaged with their upcoming college endeavors?

Elizabeth Messerli, Community Foundation of Northern Colorado - I had not heard of this term before. I'm interested to hear how other scholarship coordinators took this and are able to support the scholarship award that their foundation has connections with.

Sarah Ford, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation - We don't do anything around summer melting, this is the first I've heard this phrase, so thank you for introducing it to me. Last year was a big year for these students returning to school. We returned a partial scholarship for students who left after the first term, so they get there in the fall. Many students figure out that this isn't what I expected and then they leave school after just doing one term. That's what our experience has been more frequently.

Linda Gebhardt, Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin- We do tend to lose a lot of kids. I've never heard of this summer melt, but we try to contact parents or contact the kids frequently. There's about 200 in a class and probably about half of those kids are going to school, but it's hard to catch up with them. We do end up trying to make sure we see everybody gets something because we administer for the school. The town is 10,000 people and we administer $3.6 million in scholarships to the school. We give them plenty of time, a year or two, then we've got another $15-18,000 to return to funds because they weren't claimed. We feel a lot of it is the importance of getting that award and being recognized that you're getting a scholarship because some of these kids will probably never go on to school, but I think it's important to be recognized. We just don't have the staff and time to follow everybody.

Anne Marie White, Horatio Alger Association - We do national and state scholarships, unfortunately, we had to cancel our meeting where we would normally bring all our national scholars together. We're trying to see if we can reschedule that at this point, but if we can't, we're looking at ways of delivering the content that we would normally deliver during our conference through webinars. One of the things we're looking at specifically for all our national and state scholars is a college readiness type of program. We're looking at trying to partner with Franklin Covey to get that off the ground and having our alumni scholars act as facilitators because our class of 2020 will be close to 1000 scholars. Having alumni facilitate smaller groups within the content delivery would probably be the best way.

Alyse Braaten, Foundant Technologies - Were you already bringing your students together to help them through this transition from high school to college?

Anne Marie White, Horatio Alger Association - Yes. Some of it is about college readiness, while some of it is about how to break down the financial aid letter. For example, they get a scholarship, but then they request disbursements over four to five years. Entrepreneurship is one of the big pushes from our association, making students aware of the free enterprise system. We do things dealing with etiquette, such as an etiquette dinner. So essentially how to interact with people in a good manner. About mid-October when students have had their first exams and everything else, they tend to plummet, so making sure that they're aware of how to reach out for resources and mental health is a priority. Those are the kinds of things our association primarily deals with. Low income, low socio-economic factors, and also students who have adversity in their background. Those are the kind of things we try to prepare them as best we can for and let them know that there is a network of alumni and scholars that are out there to help them through the process.

Will you be doing anything (new or established) to celebrate your award recipients this year?

Lisa Stachula, Quad Cities Community Foundation - We typically do a scholarship reception for our recipients and their families and our donor representatives which we have had to cancel this year. I have worked with our director of donor relations to come up with a virtual alternative and she researched a platform called Think View. It's a way of recording video messages and having them email directly to someone. We plan on asking the students to record a thank you message. We also know that not all of our donor reps are very tech-savvy, nor are they on email so we're also going to collect more substantial thank you letters and more pictures so we can also print and mail out information about the student. I'm in the process of editing our follow up forms and SLM information. I've given them more direction on writing thank you letters in terms of what information the donors might want to hear. I'm also letting them know that they're going to get an email from this platform with instructions on how to record the video and the name of the platform is called Loom. We typically print certificates that we hand out at the reception, but I had not thought about continuing that. We could probably easily print them and mail them to the students as well.

Joann Farnham, Battle Creek Community Foundation - We've started some of these. A few years back, just because our receptions were too large, over 700 people. These scholarships continued to grow, we just didn't know how we would handle it. So we do create certificates for all the students and we will send them in the mail this year. We also do a publication and our local paper calls it a shopper. It's something that goes to every home in the county so it's quite a large pull out that we do with all of our pictures of all of our recipients and the scholarships. They were awarded so that'll come out later this summer. But the one thing that's kind of fun that we did is we created yard signs. For every student that gets a scholarship, they get our sign in bright orange and it says that “I am a Battle Creek Community Foundation scholarship recipient”. It’s cool to drive through town and different places and see them pop up all over the place. One of our affiliates is doing the same thing because they can't do a reception this year either.

Tracy Peters, Armstrong County Community Foundation - Typically we send volunteers to go to present these awards at the award ceremonies that the schools are holding. There are quite a few scholarships that are Memorial Scholarship so there's history, they’re very near and dear. You're not going to be able to do that this year. We decided to invite them to write a little letter to the recipient to explain to them, this is why we are giving this scholarship. This is why it's special to us, just to kind of have that personal touch brought back into it since they won't be able to physically present it to them. Then we'll send that with their award certificate in the mail.

Linda Gebhardt, Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin - One thing that our paper or local paper does every year is they have a whole section in Monroeville, Wisconsin. They have a whole pull out section that's nothing but the senior pictures, so I'm hoping that will continue. I love the thing with the signs in the yard. I've been seeing on Facebook as there's a local photographer that even if they didn't take a senior picture you sent her one she will make a banner with senior 2020 and I've been seeing them in houses and windows around town. They've actually put the kids on banners and hung them on the street lights down through Main Street, so everybody's feeling bad for this year's seniors and want to honor them.

What are we learning about timelines for universities for Fall and how does that affect your work?

Erika Orsulak, Thurgood Marshall College Fund - One thing that we did within the last few weeks is we typically work with about 50 colleges and universities. That's where the vast majority of our thousand plus scholarships are concentrated and we put together a simple survey to all of our contacts, mostly financial aid contacts at those 50 colleges and universities. We ask them, what do you know about future planning for the college and university? Both students back on campus, but also their staff teams back on campus. But that survey seemed to provide us with at least initial information on sort of what a number of them anticipate at this point.

Q & A

Erika Orsulak, Thurgood Marshall College Fund - I was just going to give you the preliminary results of what we found from this relay which I think most folks responded to. The financial aid officers that we've connected with at these colleges and universities said that 100% of them said they anticipated getting back on campus for fall 2020. That said, just thinking about things I've heard from colleagues from colleges and universities in the past seven to ten days. If that's going to continue to be what they share with us, I would say I think for Thurgood Marshall College Fund, it might be wise for us to stay connected with them and either re-survey them or reach out to individuals to keep tabs on this over the coming weeks. I hear on national & regional news that many colleges and universities are planning for multiple tracks, including not returning for fall 2020 and maybe not even returning on campus in spring 2021, having the entire year as a virtual year. The more I hear and read the more I'm thinking this is a moving target. We have no idea.

Alyse Braaten, Foundant Technologies - I think one thing I would probably add to that survey if you're not already asking it is where to check back for updated information. Is there a particular web page, not just your campus website because that's going to be huge. But is there a particular space, maybe in financial aid, or on the Foundation's website where we can expect regular updates on these things, or is there an email list server that will push out updates for that campus. Both of those things I'd want to know for any campus that I was sending a good portion of students to.

Lisa Stachula,  Quad Cities Community Foundation - As Erica said, everything is a moving target. So as we know things are changing on a week by week basis. And I think part of what's happening is they're struggling with how we plan for the fall when we have no idea what's going to be going on by then. However, one thing that might be useful in terms of the work that we're doing with scholarships is how to calculate grades for the spring semester. Do they continue just normally awarding letter grades? Do they switch to just pass-fail? Do they do a combination? How are we going to determine if a student meets the GPA criteria for our renewable scholarships, so we decided we're going to accept a passing grade if that is how the school is proceeding. If they're not going to be doing their regular grading, and if we're seeing some students that have more than one fail, we will just follow up with them directly to get some more information about that. But we're kind of handling it if the school is enrolling students next fall, we're going to go ahead and issue them the payment, just because there are so many extenuating circumstances going on right now. They're having to adjust and adapt enough and we don't want to make it more difficult for them.

About the Author

For more than a decade, Foundant Technologies has specialized exclusively in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through intuitive technology solutions. All of our cloud-based solutions focus on grantmaker, grantseeker, scholarship provider and community foundation needs with the goal to make day-to-day tasks streamlined and help maximize the impact of the philanthropic community.

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