Westminster unveils new financial aid opportunity for qualifying incoming students

A group of students work on their laptops in front of Converse Hall at Westminster College on Oct. 26. The college’s new Griffin Grant, coming January 2018, will be available to in-state, out of state and transfer students, but these students would not be eligible because they are already enrolled at Westminster. (Photo by Katie Felice)

A group of students work on their laptops in front of Converse Hall at Westminster College on Oct. 26. The college’s new Griffin Grant, coming January 2018, will be available to in-state, out of state and transfer students, but these students would not be eligible because they are already enrolled at Westminster. (Photo by Katie Felice)

Westminster College’s Griffin Grant, coming spring 2018, is a new financial aid opportunity for incoming students that aims to help those from all socioeconomic backgrounds attend college.

This grant is available for in-state, out of state and transfer students who have a family adjusted gross income of less than $100,000 a year. Those entering the college in 2018 who are eligible for the grant will pay no more than $8,870 a year for tuition.

“It is a fantastic first step in moving toward meeting the demonstrated financial need of each student,” said Lisa Gentile, Westminster’s provost and a member of the group that helped design the new financial aid award, in an email.

Although the grant will become available as of January 2018, students who are already enrolled at the college will not be eligible — nor will international students.

We strongly believe in the liberal arts-based education that Westminster provides and that all students who get into Westminster and want to be here should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their financial background.
— Lisa Gentile, Provost of Westminster College

“International students will still remain eligible for all of the scholarship opportunities that they are currently eligible for,” Gentile wrote. “After we see how things have gone during the first year of the Griffin Grant, I am sure there will be many things we revisit/re-evaluate moving forward.”

The Griffin Grant may make things more complex for future students looking to combine it with other scholarships.

“If the scholarships are internal, they are applied to a student’s financial aid package before the Griffin Grant is added,” Gentile wrote. “Students can have as many of these internal scholarships as they qualify for/are awarded. The Griffin Grant is then added on top of these internal scholarships up to the level described [within the grant information packet].”

However, Gentile said, “If the scholarships are external, they are added after the Griffin Grant, so students could end up paying less than the level described.”

Emily Bergland, a senior psychology major, said the Griffin Grant seems like a good opportunity but she would like to see it expand.

“It would be good financial help for students with low income,” she said. “But as the school has been working so much on diversity, I would like to see the grant become available for international students as well.”

Brittney Martin, a senior psychology major, agreed.

“It could provide opportunity for new incoming students who could not afford to attend otherwise,” she said. “It will give someone an opportunity they wouldn’t have had before.”

Westminster’s Financial Aid Office was not part of the Griffin Grant creation process but has been tasked with implementation.

David Paskett, assistant director of financial aid, said he expects to see many students coming in with questions regarding the grant — many of whom it will benefit.

“There are consultants [who have put this plan together] who have ran numbers; we have not met with them in financial aid, but they say that it will help,” Paskett said. “It will definitely help some students who maybe didn’t qualify for something before.”

Gentile agreed, noting the grant is a step toward making a Westminster education more attainable.

“We strongly believe in the liberal arts-based education that Westminster provides and that all students who get into Westminster and want to be here should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their financial background,” she wrote.