Money for merit

Story by Sam Rosenberry

This is the second in a series about  how UW-Eau Claire students pay for college.


Elizabeth G. Morris taught English at this university for 24 years.

Senior Kristin Chang also wants to be an English teacher, though she prefers a middle school position. Chang wants to achieve something close to Morris’s legacy — a legacy that has now positively affected her.

Chang received a $5,000 scholarship last semester named in honor of Morris and she said she is honored for the award and the help.

“My parents aren’t the richest people in the world — we’re pretty average, so with their financial situation and with mine,” Chang said, “(the scholarship) just helps out a bunch.”

Last year, there were over 2,000 private donor scholarships and 1,600 institutionalized ones, like the Morris scholarship, that were awarded, Kathy Sahlhoff, director of
financial aid, said.

The UW-Eau Claire Foundation handles a great deal of the institutional scholarships and helped in providing $1.4 million to students last year.

Kelly Olson is the scholarship coordinator for the Foundation and she said that there are two types of scholarships that they provide: restricted and unrestricted.

The restricted scholarships have criteria set-up by donors.

“Dollars are donated by alumni to the University and then they can set-up their own fund under whatever name they so choose,” Olson said.

Most of the time, the Foundation goes out and finds donors to provide money
for scholarships.

“We have gift officers that go all over the country and meet with alumni of the university and special friends of the university to raise dollars to fund scholarships,” she said.

However, Olson said that sometimes people will call in to see how they can provide and usually that means donating to a department scholarship.

Senior Carly Hanson and junior Karen Hansen each received Department of Communication and Journalism scholarships last semester.

Hanson, who won a $500 scholarship for public relations, had never applied for scholarships before because she thought it wasn’t likely that she’d get one. However, she thinks differently now.

“I wish I would have applied for scholarships as early as freshman year.”

Hansen’s scholarship was for $100 and though it wasn’t much, she’ll take it.

“It’s not a huge sum of money like a thousand dollars,” Hansen said, “but I figure that any amount of money helps.”

The foundation also has some unrestricted scholarships that are paid for with what was earned on their endowment fund, Olson said. These include Blugold Beginnings and Blugold Fellowship scholarships.

Olson said that regardless of the type, the Foundation acts as a middleman for scholarships and does not set actual criteria; they just get the money.

There are also private scholarships available. These totaled $2.775 million last year.

A difference between the private and institutional scholarships is that one needs to report the private totals on a FAFSA, whereas institutional ones are reported automatically, Olson said.

The financial aid office’s website lists private scholarships that places, such as businesses and banks provide. Olson also said that many freshman enter with scholarships that they received during high school.

Junior Meghan Ryan won a $6,000 scholarship last semester as apart of the Phi Eta Sigma National society.

Ryan competed against students across the nation to win the award. She also got a $1,000 scholarship with Alpha Lambda Delta, another
honor society.

“I was completely shocked,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it because obviously I knew it was going to be competitive.”

She said that she is really active within those organizations, which helped her.

Ryan has won several private scholarships including one from an insurance company, and she also receives a scholarship for being the valedictorian of her high school. Hansen receives that same scholarship.

Ryan recommends that any and everybody apply for scholarships available.

“I would definitely say to keep your eyes open,” she said. “Check to see what opportunities are available to you … you never know when something will come up.”