1:30 P.M. EST March 15, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)
A student at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif., tries on a cap and gown. A UMNS file photo by Ronny Perry.
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Economic woes in the United States don’t just affect those in the workforce—now they’re affecting those waiting to enter it.
A 13 percent decline in giving to United Methodist Student Day, coupled with increases in eligible applicants and reductions in other funds, means several hundred United Methodist scholarship applicants are likely to be disappointed this year, church officials said.
They are appealing for donations to be made online before June.
Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Office of Loans and Scholarships, said 469 students who were eligible for scholarships last year did not receive money because funds were not available. She fears even more will be turned down this year.
She said the popular $1,000 Karen Layman Gift of Hope Scholarship for undergraduates is a good example of the effect of a decline in offerings for Student Day and World Communion Sunday, lower earnings on funds managed by the board and increased demand because of the poor economy. In addition, since scholarship applications were made available online in January 2009, the number of applicants has tripled to more than 9,000.
“We know that we will have more than 700 eligible applicants for the Gift of Hope Scholarship, and we will only be able to make awards to about 300,” Current-Felder said.
The office has already received 2,100 applications, and applications are accepted through April 15. The Student Day offering decreased more than $70,000 between 2008 and 2009; World Communion Sunday offerings dropped almost $100,000 in the same period.
Kimberly Brook received a United Methodist Student Day-funded scholarship while attending North Central College, Naperville, Ill. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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Current-Felder said the conferences would have less money for scholarships, too. Annual (regional) conferences that participate in Student Day get 10 percent of their offering back for conference merit scholarships that they award to deserving United Methodist students.
Many churches struggling with their own budgets in poor economic times might have made the decision not to observe Student Day because they felt they could not ask their members for additional money, Current-Felder said.
Scholarships are awarded through June for this fall, so donations would have to be made by June in order to help students this year, Current-Felder said. Donations made after that would go toward 2011 scholarships.
Ten percent of the receipts go to the United Methodist Student Loan Fund, and the remainder is for scholarships. In addition to the rebate to participating annual conferences, a portion of Student Day receipts goes to United Methodist-related schools, colleges and universities for scholarships awarded by the individual institutions.
Although Student Day is observed in November, donations can be made online by visiting www.umcgiving.org/umstudentday.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.