Students must take advantage of grants

By Angela Pagan

Students are underutilizing scholarship opportunities and need to take advantage of financial aid since it may be diminished due to budget cuts.

NIU President Doug Baker said more than 4,000 students who rely on financial aid could be negatively affected if Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget is passed, according to a March 23 Northern Star article. NIU students are graduating with tens of thousands in student loans. Yet, only a small portion of those students are applying for academic scholarships. That is unacceptable.

The College of Engineering has 1,368 undergraduate students enrolled, said Debbie Gutierrez, office manager in the College of Engineering dean’s office. But, only 150 students — or 11.5 percent — applied for scholarships, said business manager Mia Hannon. Hannon said the College of Engineering had $175,200 in scholarship dollars to offer.

Paul Baker, College of Education director of college relations, said the college awarded $234,000 through the 62 scholarships it offers and 195 students received the awards out of the 250 who applied. Patricia Wielert, administrative assistant to the dean in the College of Education, said there are 4,500 students enrolled in the College of Education. That means only 5.5 percent of College of Education undergraduates applied for scholarships.

“Sometimes I’m kind of upset because we have quite a bit of money to give but not enough students apply …,”said Katharina Barbe, Foreign Languages and Literatures department chair. “I don’t think all of them do take advantage. We advertise it on our website, we send emails to all our majors and minors and we advertise it through classes … .”

No matter what your major, minor, year in school, age or gender, there is a scholarship out there for you. Some scholarship requirements are easier to complete than others: Barbe said the Foreign Language Department started offering a blog scholarship for students who travel abroad in which they blog about their experiences.

There are opportunities to decrease student debt by applying for scholarships. The average debt of 2013 NIU graduates was $31,997, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, an independent organization that “works to make higher education more available and affordable.”

It is up to students to apply for scholarships.