President Michael F. Adams on need-based scholarships

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Michael F. Adams

Q: Since most UGA students come in with the HOPE Scholarship and can keep it by maintaining a B average, why does the university need to provide further scholarships?

A: First of all, remember that HOPE covers only tuition and some fees, and that both the fee structure and the room and board structure for pricing will continue to go up in future years. We have thousands of students with outstanding high school records who apply each year who need support for books, computers and basic living expenses among other needs. While some portions of our student body are affluent, there are certainly significant portions that need and deserve more financial aid than we can currently provide.

Q: How has UGA sought funding for need-based aid?

A: We’ve done something almost every day over the past 13 years. It ranges from direct personal appeals to fundraising letters to phone-a-thons to the use of endowment money. I remain a strong supporter of HOPE, but one of the downsides is that it has lulled many of our supporters into thinking that there’s not a need for additional aid and I can assure you that is anything but the truth.

Q: Do some populations benefit more from these scholarships and is that by design?

A: I think at least three groups benefit from need-based aid. First of all, we are still the place of choice for most bright students from rural Georgia, and many of them have grown up in communities where incomes do not fully support attendance at UGA today. Second, our minority population continues to grow and while certain elements of that population are themselves affluent, large numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans who desire to attend UGA need and deserve additional financial aid. Third, most young people who are of a quality to be admitted to UGA receive multiple scholarship offers, both merit- and need-based, from many of our competitors, and especially from private institutions. We need to be more competitive in landing that group, and need-based aid is a crucial element.

Cortney Ralston, a Coca-Cola first generation scholar, studies enzymes in Professor Bill Lanzilotta’s lab. Photo by Dot Paul

Q: How does having need-based aid benefit the student body and the university as a whole?

A: I believe that it helps us diversify. It brings people of different backgrounds, personalities and ethnicities to the classroom. In those cases, group discussion is enhanced, broader perspectives are debated and the entire social culture and social climate is enriched.

Q: Have you seen the need for additional aid increase in recent years?

A: Undoubtedly. We had the largest increase in Pell Grant recipients in modern memory this year—39 percent. (The Pell Grant is a federal financial aid program for students from low-income families. - Ed.) We also had a number of young people, unfortunately, who “traded down” to other institutions because the travel and living expenses closer to home were more within their means. Numerous, probably thousands, of college students and their families have been directly affected by the state’s economic downturn.