Students create scholarship site

Students create scholarship site

CW | Claire Whorton

She brought her idea to Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences, when he was in Student Affairs and was met with enthusiasm and support. This year, her idea came to fruition when Compass Scholarship Search officially launched in early January.

Compass Scholarship Search is an initiative made possible by a partnership between the SGA and management information systems students. The new online database is for University students who are looking for scholarship money to ease the financial burden of college.

The website, compass.ua.edu, collects information from students when they log in for the first time. The database can then automatically search for every scholarship the student qualifies to receive. Direct links send students to the application form they need to fill out to be considered for the scholarship.

“People think they’re not going to get a scholarship because they don’t have the GPA to get it, but when you actually look at some of these scholarships it’s not necessarily all about the GPA,” faculty mentor Brett Coburn said. “There’s a lot of them that are out there for people in certain life situations, people who are veterans trying to pay their way through college, people who come from regions of the country that are traditionally impoverished, people who are the first person in their family to go to college.”

Students can favorite scholarships they are interested in to make them easy to find later. They can flag scholarships that have already been given out to notify the website maintenance team of outdated information that needs to be taken off the site.

Compass currently accesses about 1,000 scholarship offers. The SGA and the MIS department hope to create a team that can continually add scholarships to the website.

“The main goal is to help as many students as possible who have maximized internal resources and are looking externally but are overwhelmed,” 
Wills said.

Wills said she found an article in a technology magazine about a program the University of Arizona put in place called Arizona Scholarship Universe. Alabama reached out to Arizona in hopes of buying their program, but Arizona was hesitant to sell because it worried it would cut into their students’ scholarship options. Alabama then decided to look internally and contract the MIS program on campus to undertake creating the website as a senior Capstone project.

Arizona spent $350,000 a year for three years on their scholarship website, while Alabama was able to create Compass for about $85,000 over the 
past year.

“This was a project that was student-initiated, student-led, and then the system they came up with was student-built,” Coburn said. “I’m incredibly impressed by what they’ve done. I think it’s a great sign overall of how strong the students are at this university, that we can come up with something ourselves that I see as better quality than what somebody paid a consultant for.”

The team had a soft launch in the fall for MIS and SGA students to fix glitches and get feedback before the entire student body joined. Now they have started promoting the website for all 
undergraduate students to access.

Shawn Branham, a senior majoring in management information systems, worked on setting up the website.

“Yesterday alone we had 250 people sign up for it,” Branham said. “It’s gaining popularity and people are starting to notice it.”

Branham said they hope to have the website linked to myBama soon.

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