A 13-percent decline in giving to Student Day, coupled with increases in eligible applicants and reductions in other funds, means several hundred United Methodist scholarship applicants are likely to be disappointed this year unless significant donations are made on line before June. So says Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Office of Loans and Scholarships.
Current-Felder says last year, 469 students who were eligible for scholarships did not receive money because funds were not available, and she fears even more will be turned down this year.
The popular $1,000 Karen Layman Gift of Hope Scholarship for undergraduates is a good example, she says, of the effect of a decline in offerings for Student Day and World Communion Sunday; lower earnings on funds managed by GBHEM; and increased demand because of the poor economy. Added to that, since scholarship applications were made available on line in January 2008, the number of applicants has more than tripled, to exceed 9,000.
"We know that we will have more than 700 eligible applicants for the Gift of Hope Scholarship [this year], and we will only be able to make awards to about 300," Current-Felder says.
The office already has received 2,100 applications, and applications are being accepted through April 15.
In addition, Current-Felder points out, since Annual Conferences which participate in Student Day get 10 percent of their offering back for Conference Merit Scholarships (which they then award to deserving United Methodist students), the Conferences will have less money for scholarships, too.
In 2009 The Student Day offering was down $70,064 – to $484,188, compared to $554,242 in 2008. World Communion Sunday giving dropped 10 percent last year to $930,878, from $1,028,865 in 2008.
"We know that the poor economy was a factor, and we appreciate those churches that observed Student Day and took an offering. We believe scholarships are a crucial investment in the future of The United Methodist Church – a concrete way to show young United Methodists that the church cares about their future."
Acknowledging that many churches struggling with their own budgets in poor economic times may have made the decision not to observe Student Day because they felt they could not ask their members for additional money, Current-Felder says, "We really hope that individuals who can afford to do so will make an online contribution."
Scholarships are awarded through June for this fall, so donations will have to be made by June in order to help students this year, Current-Felder notes. Donations made after that time would go toward 2011 scholarships.
Ten percent of the receipts go to the United Methodist Student Loan Fund, and the remainder goes for scholarships. In addition to the rebate to participating Annual Conferences, a portion of Student Day receipts goes to United Methodist-related schools, colleges, and universities for scholarships that are awarded by the individual institutions.
Although Student Day is observed in November, now donations may be made on line at any time.
If you would like to help spread the word that donations are needed, please post this as your status on Facebook:
"If you can give, they will achieve – Help United Methodist students by donating today." http://is.gd/adCk8