Departmental scholarships under review

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Anslem Hall at the University of Dallas. Photo by Anthony Mazur

The University of Dallas is looking into dissolving departmental scholarships beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year.

The administration began considering dissolving these scholarships in June. A decision will have to be made by next summer.

UD currently offers departmental scholarships for the art, chemistry/biochemistry, classics, computer science, drama, French, German, mathematics, music, physics and Spanish departments.

Students can apply for these scholarships as high school seniors and receive between $1000 and $5000 if they are selected for the awards.

They are not required to major in the department if they receive the scholarship.

Departmental scholarships are unfunded, meaning that students who receive them essentially receive a discount on their tuition.

In contrast, funded scholarships have an outside source that pays the amount of the award to the school on behalf of the student.

Currently, the school budgets around $100,000 a year for the scholarships, according to Executive Vice President Dr. John Plotts. Now, they are looking into whether that money could be used more effectively.

One concern that the administration has is that students receiving these scholarships would sometimes already have financial aid that covered their need, or else have not even applied for federal aid.

Another concern is that not all departments offer these scholarships.

Departmental scholarships are generally offered by smaller departments that use this extra incentive to bring more students in.

From a financial perspective, these scholarships subsidize underperforming departments.

“It would be another thing if some of these scholarships were funded,” Plotts said. “As it is, they take away from somewhere else in order to go there.”

Plotts suggested that smaller departments should take more responsibility for recruiting students to their major, since so many UD students come in undecided.

Associate classics Professor Dr. David Sweet worries that the dissolution of departmental scholarships could harm the university.

While Sweet is concedes that the decision may make sense financially, he worries that it will damage the academic reputation of the institution.

“A mega-university can support [a] small department,” Sweet said. “But a small university like this one may have difficulty without giving these departments an advantage. If you want to be a university of the kind that we are you have to have these departments.”

Majors like business and English naturally attract many students. But without departmental scholarships, Sweet worries that smaller departments will suffer by having to cut back on faculty.

European languages, classics, arts and sciences are all vital areas of study to offer a liberal arts education with a mission like UD’s, even if they may not generate as many majors as other departments, according to Sweet.

Sweet hopes that as the decision is made, faculty members of these small departments will be consulted.

Both Plotts and Sweet agree that when the question is decided, it will come down to what is more of an institutional priority for the school: the financial or the academic.

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