Students profit from surplus scholarships
According to UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen, in some instances, students who have received multiple scholarships are able to place excess funds in his or her student account.
"Scholarships, as well as any other kind of financial assistance, are applied directly to students’ accounts,” she said. “Any excess funds, amounts over and above the students’ charges, are refundable to the student in most cases."
Andreen said that students are not able to receive more money in scholarships than the costs of housing, tuition, and books combined from the University. External scholarships, she said, can be combined with university-sanctioned grants to place excess funds in students’ UA financial accounts.
Tim Lovorn, a graduate student in the physics department, said he received in excess of $32,000 from the University to use at his own discretion as a result of receiving multiple scholarships during his four years as a UA undergraduate.
Lovorn received a tier one scholarship, the precursor to the Academic Elite scholarship the University has awarded since 2007, fully covered tuition and housing and also provided him a $1,000 stipend each semester. Lovorn also received a National Merit Finalist scholarship, which was intended to go toward his tuition.
As a result, the additional money went into his student account, enabling him to use it at his own discretion, Lovorn said.
"This happened every semester, [totaling] $4,000 a semester," Lovorn said. "It was the same process as all refunds. It was put in [my] myBama account, and I either came down to financial services and requested the refund, or they eventually mailed it to me. Because I had the tier one, it was just extra money."
Andreen said, “The University does not give scholarships that would allow a student to make money; however, if a student received external scholarships above the cost of tuition, housing, meals, books, etc., and the student put any extra funds in the bank, then they could potentially have money in their bank account for future use.”
Calvin Bryan, a sophomore majoring mechanical engineering, received a full scholarship in addition to a laptop and a stipend.
"It did not pay for food but it paid for pretty much everything else," Bryan said. "It paid for tuition, for my room, my laptop and paid for several other miscellaneous things. I also get 500 dollars a semester."
Bryan said this scholarship offer was the reason he decided to attend the University.
"I knew I wanted to go to a big school and I knew I wanted to go to a school with a good engineering program, but beyond that I just wanted to go to the school that gave me the biggest scholarship," Bryan said. "It was the deciding factor between Alabama and the rest of the best schools in the nation."
Andreen said how a stipend can be used is determined by the scholarship, and not all stipends can be used at the student's discretion.
"A stipend that is designated for a specific purpose, such as study abroad, must be used for that purpose,” she said. “Other stipends may be used at the student’s discretion, but are generally used for educational expenses like internships, study abroad and research opportunities, as well as costs of attending college such as books, transportation and personal expenses."
Ryan Ely, a senior majoring in advertising, said he believes allowing students to receive excessive amounts of money from multiple scholarships is immoral.
"When scholarships become so excessive that funds aren't used toward things that are just school related, then it becomes unethical," Ely said. "There are plenty of kids here who are deserving of scholarships or really need the scholarship money to get by but can't because there isn't enough to go around."
Casey Carr, a senior majoring in civil engineering, said if students are capable of receiving large amounts of money to use at their own discretion, then that corrupts the true purpose of a scholarship.
"Getting a scholarship is not winning the lottery,” Carr said. “Getting multiple scholarships shouldn't be winning the lottery. Scholarships are supposed to go towards your education.
“I understand that these days, books and other day-to-day things can be expensive, but students shouldn't be able to get several thousand dollars to use however they want. That should go toward financial aid or scholarships to other students who have worked hard and might not be coming to Alabama because they couldn't get a scholarship"