|Demand for scholarships, loans skyrockets|
Zephorah Benson, left, a second-year student at Candler School of Theology, and her mother, the Rev. Carleatha Benson, drove from Seneca, S.C., to Nashville, Tenn., to meet the May 15 application deadline for a United Methodist scholarship. A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown.
By Vicki Brown*
May 22, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
More than twice as many college students applied for United Methodist scholarships this year as last year, and student loan requests poured in so quickly that the application site was closed in four days.
The economy is one factor, but online applications and the “Five for Five” loan program probably were big factors in the increase, too, said Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Office of Loans and Scholarships.
“Online applications make the scholarships and loans much more accessible when you are working with a generation that lives online,” Current-Felder said. Scholarship applications went online in January.
Scholarship application deadlines vary, but as of May 15, the last deadline, 8,892 applications had been received, compared to 3,675 the previous year. In 2008, 3,365 students were awarded about $4.6 million in scholarships.
“We have more applications for both loans and scholarships than we have funds,” Current-Felder said. And fewer funds are available because of the economy.
“We suffered about a 20 percent loss in investments. For instance, we have one fund that had $7 million, and now it has $5.5 million,” she said.
United Methodist scholarship funds come from three church-wide Special Sundays with offerings: Student Day, World Communion Sunday, and Native American Ministries Sunday, as well as earnings on funds that are invested and managed by the board’s Investment Committee. Many of those funds are from wills and annuities.
A student at United Methodist-related Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology pulls a book from the library shelf. A UMNS photo by
Loan funds come from Student Day offerings and from loan repayments.
The Student Day offering was down slightly in 2008, $468,943, compared to $554,242 the previous year. Ten percent of those funds go to loans. The rest fund scholarships.
“The good news is that right now, it looks as if our collections are holding. We projected $2 million in collections, and it appears we will get that,” Current-Felder said. “We award loans with what we collect.”
The demand for loans increased dramatically in 2007 with the “Five for Five” program that doubled the amount students could borrow from $2,500 to $5,000 annually and dropped the interest rate to 5 percent. Demand increased again when online applications were started in May 2008.
Last May, applications for loans for the summer and fall terms closed in just three weeks. In December, applications were closed after just three days.
Loan applications for summer and fall 2009 semesters opened May 1, and closed in just four days after 299 applications were received for about $1.5 million.
In 2008, 412 loans were awarded for $1.86 million. For 2009, 119 loans were awarded for the winter and spring semesters. If all 299 applicants for summer and fall are eligible and approved, 418 loans for more than $2 million will be awarded for 2009.
Donations to United Methodist Student Day can be made online. To learn more about United Methodist scholarships and loans, visit www.gbhem.org and click on Loans and Scholarships.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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