With the reduction in the number of national scholarships and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the US and Europe, people are seeing the University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine as an even more attractive option for tertiary education despite the scholarship gap.
Kristy Mannette-Smith, manager, Financial Advisory Services Department in the Division of Student Services and Development, UWI, St Augustine spoke with Sunday Newsday about the financial aid available to perspective and current students.
She explained that 350 scholarships and bursaries are awarded annually to full-time, registered, undergraduate students locally, regionally, and internationally. They are all funded by donors with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.
Almost all are non-tuition based awards so students do not have to use the funds to pay tuition but could use it for books, electronic devices, internet and printing services, transportation, food, rent and other ways that support their education.
Some are non-renewable so that the students will have to reapply to get it again, while others are continuous as long as the student continues to meet the particular criteria. The general criteria is a 3.0 GPA, financial need, and involvement in extracurricular activities, although the department is more lenient with that aspect because of COVID-19.
She said most donors, which includes members of the campus community, corporate TT, alumni, secondary school past pupils associations, and rotary clubs, put a financial need component in their criteria for their award and snap the scholarship gap.
“Because our donors recognize the other circumstances impacting students, the GPA requirement is not beyond reach. So that a donor may ask for a 3.0 GPA, which is a B+ average, but many times our donors actually go below the 3.0, sometimes down to 2.5, recognizing that these may be excellent students but they may be impacted by other financial, socio-economic, family situations and constraints that may not allow them to reach their full potential on the academic plane.
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“Our recognition that there are other factors associated with higher learning has caused UWI, across the region and specifically here at the St Augustine campus, to ensure that some provisions are made for our students in relation to the campus’ resources.
”Application for aid for returning students begins in January and continues to May, and new students can apply during the month of September.
The Division of Student Services and Development noticed an increase in the number of local students seeking financial assistance, many citing the changes to the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme. The amount of GATE funding students receive is now based on the household income rather than covering 100 per cent of tuition expenses as it did previously.
Mannette-Smith said many students believe the myth that they are not eligible for financial aid but because the criteria varies from donor to donor, they could be eligible over someone with a higher GPA which, for those with CAPE or associate degree results, is calculated using a determined system.
UWI St. Augustine Study aid programmes
In addition to scholarships and bursaries, UWI has three aid programmes.
Voluntarily funded by staff members, the Adopt-A-Student programme offers students $400 per month for a semester to help with day to day needs like meals and transport. In the 2019 to 2020 academic year, over 100 students benefited from the fund.
Then, there is the one-time Hardship Grant. “Sometimes students are in a bit of a bind, they may have some extenuating circumstances, or they are unable to support themselves in various ways. They come to us, we interview them, now via zoom or telephone, and we get a sense of their need and then we determine how much we can afford to give them.
”The newest programme is the COVID Aid programme. In 2020, it was noticed that more people needed help because of extenuating circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Therefore, the 2019 to 2020 UWI Guild executive donated funds to support students who were impacted. The programme helped over 70 students and 50 percent of the funding went to regional and international students who were stuck in TT.
Mannette-Smith recalled that, in 2020, the school also provided food hampers, laptops, counselling and other services to students.
“We had an active drive through the division’s director’s office to seek out all our international and regional students, touch base with them, see what their needs were. We work as one division so that the information is passed through the divisional departments to see who could help in what way.”
Athletes are covered with Scholarships
“We have aligned ourselves with the campus’ drive to raise the profile of the student athlete through the development of first, the Academy of Sport, and now the Faculty of Sport which is a very new faculty across the three campuses.
”The UWI Development and Endowment Fund gives ten non-continuous scholarships of $5,000 annually to student athletes, as well as the Star Scholarship, a $15,000 one-off award, for the top student across each faculty, including the Faculty of Sport.
Students must be full-time national and regional students with a 3.0 GPA with leniency, and provide evidence on their participation in the sport.
“Students must be active in their sporting discipline at the time of application and should have participated in one of the 68 International Olympic Committee recognized sports or World Championship sports at the national level or in their home country.
”They need to have qualified for a national-level team or individual sport, or qualifying trials; or been nominated by a national sporting federation, association, or committee to compete at a national, regional, or international level.
There is also a sports scholarship of $10,000 supplied by a donor living abroad filling the scholarship gap.
“I would like to say a special thanks to our donors because without them we would not be able to offer these awards.
”Students can apply online on UWI’s website at https://sta.uwi.edu/scholarships/ by completing three forms. She stressed that they should read the guidelines before moving to the “apply now” page.
They can then fill out the income and expenditure form which has to be notarized by a public notary, the additional comment form, and the extracurricular involvement form, all of which can be submitted online, including the supporting documents.
Mannette-Smith said all of the department’s goals are in line with UWI’s “triple a strategy of access, alignment and agility”.
“When the division speaks about ‘access’ we speak about promoting an environment that fosters learning and development, cultivating an environment of collaboration, discovery and innovation. Aligning – we ensure that our systems are enhanced to provide excellent service delivery to our stakeholders.
”The division also hosts workshops with financial advice for students and plays a key role in ensuring that as few students as possible are denied a tertiary education because they cannot afford it.
Anyone interested in UWI’s financial aid programme can contact the Financial Advisory Services Department at 662-2002 ext 82360, 84185, 82100; email [email protected], or through Facebook at UWI, St Augustine, Financial Advisory Services.