Competitive Scholarships Modified

College administration is majorly altering several merit-based scholarships—including the Maclellan and Wilberforce scholarships and departmental scholarships—and is creating the Presidential scholarship, a $5000 merit-based award.

The changes are partly an initiative by members of the Admissions office, who saw larger, more moneyed universities drawing brilliant applicants away with full-ride scholarship offers. “I would hate for a student who wants to be at Covenant to not be at Covenant because they felt a full tuition scholarship [to another college] was more attractive or doable for their family,” said Director of Admissions Scott Schindler.

No departmental scholarships, such as the Economics and Community Development scholarships, will be offered for the upcoming school year. Instead, those institutional funds will now go towards the new Presidential Scholarship, a merit-based award to be given based on academic achievement and interview performance and not specific to any department. The Presidential award is for $5000 annually and will be offered to 27-40 incoming freshmen this year.

Unlike departmental awards, the new Presidential Scholarships do not require recipients to declare and maintain a major within the department from which they received the award. Recipients will be given more freedom to choose a major once they experience life at Covenant and take classes within various academic fields.

Schindler says that the departmental scholarships often felt like they were potentially “forcing students into a program and process,” which seemed at times to contradict a liberal arts model of education. Additionally, since only nine departments actually had scholarships, he says it felt more feasible to move away from that model than try to expand the model to all departments.

The Maclellan and Wilberforce Scholarship Programs have undergone substantial financial changes. The Maclellan award will cover 100% of tuition instead of 60%. Admissions, faculty and administration feel that this change will better reflect the quality of the program with its “fantastic curriculum, great group of core directors, and great legacy with alumni,” as Schindler describes. The 40% jump partially hides, however, the considerable number of Maclellan Scholars in the past who received other  financial aid on top of the Mac that frequently brought their aid package up to 75-80% of tuition.

Financial changes to the Wilberforce are more nuanced. The endowed award in the past has averaged out to about $15,000 per year; now the $15,000 will be added on top of whatever institutional aid the winners receive, up to the full tuition mark. Tuition costs approximately $32,000 with student fees for the 2017-2018 year, so if an applicant receives more than $17,000 of institutional aid, the remaining institutional aid will be replaced by the endowed Wilberforce funds and their final package will cover full tuition.

Collaborative scholarships, like the Church Promise Scholarship, remain unchanged while one other competitive scholarship—the Church Involvement Scholarship—has been absolved. The changes are not retroactive, meaning they are only applicable to incoming scholarship classes.

Schindler believes that the changes to the Maclellan and Wilberforce scholarships reflect the quality of the programs. He also understands that such big changes can create tensions. “We’re holding this year more open handedly,” he says. “If we need to change something, we’ll change it.” Schindler says that he has received much support from Maclellan and Wilberforce alumni, who believe that the changes better reflect the heart of the programs. 

The changes have been positively received by some scholarship applicants this year, one of whom dubs the Maclellan shift a “big bonus” and says that he would have probably eschewed Covenant for a big state school under the previous model. Matthew Barber, a high school senior from Birmingham, points out that Scholarship Weekend attendees invited to interview for the Maclellan or Wilberforce this year were not allowed to interview for both. He says that Maclellan interviewees who are not offered the award “could be better candidates than those who get the Wilberforce but they couldn’t [interview for both], so they don’t get either of them.”

The Office of Admissions hosted two scholarship weekends this spring instead of one. The first of the two took place on February 10th-11th and hosted students competing for the Maclellan and Wilberforce Scholarships, while the second took place this weekend to host students competing for the new Presidential Scholarship.