Merit-Based Scholarships Aren’t Enough
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Student Life

Merit-Based Scholarships Aren’t Enough

Why don't we just make education accessible?

Abby Chung

Sally grew up in a hard-working working class family. The oldest of three siblings, she shared the child-raising role while her mother worked hard for nearly countless hours so they could make the rent. Sally did her best in school, though completing homework could get difficult since she didn't have Wi-Fi at home and often had to work during the hours when the publicly accessible computers were available. The guidance counselor at her school did very little to reach out to students and spent most of his time in his office. It never occurred to Sally that she'd be able to go to college.

Her friend John was in a fairly similar situation. But he had learned about a large scholarship to attend a great university down the road that would take care of all of his costs, including textbooks. He'd always been a diligent student, though his work schedule had kept his list of extracurricular activities short. He put a great deal of effort and love into his application, though his parents had never gone through the process and didn't know enough about what they were looking for to provide much guidance. He submitted the application and waited hopefully. He got rejected.

Tara got the scholarship. She prepared for college with a great deal of excitement that quickly turned sour as she tried to determine how to pay for a good laptop, for flights to and from the university. Once she reached school, she found herself struggling to keep up in the social scene with no extra funds to go out with her friends. It was difficult to mix well with people who had grown up in such different, privileged situations anyway. With little to no precedent in her family regarding how college worked, she felt a bit alone and unsure which resources she could use when struggling.

Darren got a separate partial-tuition scholarship and couldn't afford the rest of the price. Fortunately, he was able to get some help applying for loans. He spent his college career working, sometimes until past midnight, so he didn't have the chance to study sufficiently, regularly attend office hours, sleep enough to be alert in classes, or participate in extracurricular activities. He was too busy working in the summers to get a good internship. With a weak resume, he graduated with no job offers and thousands of thousands of dollars in debt quickly accruing interest.

Education is the "great equalizer," but it's increasingly expensive. Scholarships are the great equalizer for access to that education, but merit-based systems for getting lower income students to college leave most students behind and leave the winners insufficiently supported. So what's the equalizer behind the scholarships? Where does real equality happen? It doesn't.

Equality has to exist from the beginning, at the very root, for any equality to ever exist at all. Even if the classroom is an "equal place," we still have to somehow reach it, and know what we're doing when we get there. But for as long as we operate in an unequal economic and social system, that will never be the case.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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