Scholarship system doesn’t reward improvement

Calvin’s current scholarships system doesn’t sufficiently reward student improvement. It’s counterintuitive that the current system cares more about high school performance than collegiate performance. 

As recently as 2015, Calvin rewarded students with $2,000 if their cumulative GPA was 0.4 above the minimum required to keep it. On the one hand, thankfully, the minimum reward needed to keep those initial rewards has been lowered at least twice, allowing for more students to receive the financial support necessary. On the other, this lowers the expectations for struggling students while still failing to reward those who have excelled Calvin’s expectations of those students when they first accepted the admission offer.

There are many students, myself included, who entered Calvin with a poor, or less than stellar, academic record. It didn’t occur to me that grades had any real consequences until my third year of high school, when I turned my poor grades into acceptable ones. My change in study habits occurred too late, and I was stuck, with my high school self to blame, with the lowest of Calvin’s six academic scholarships that are awarded upon acceptance. Although I am grateful for even receiving this academic package, it certainly didn’t motivate me to do better — I had to find that motivation elsewhere. Now, I was lucky enough to get donor funded scholarships, but not everyone is as lucky.

I almost transferred at the end of my first year because I was denied private loans and needed to work three jobs in order to pay my tuition bills. Four years later and I have worked three jobs or more every semester of my undergraduate experience since spring of freshman year. If my grades weren’t going to help keep me at Calvin, why aim for the A when a B will do just fine?

No matter how I or anyone else in these shoes performed throughout their years at Calvin, their reward remains the same as long as their GPA doesn’t drop. It doesn’t matter if Susan skated by and hardly kept that 3.0 or if she worked 30-hour weeks and nailed down the impossible 4.0. It doesn’t matter if she improves by 0.2 every semester or if she stays stagnant. Her scholarship remains the same. 

It didn’t use to be this way, and perhaps it’s time to shift the focus from lowering the standards for keeping a scholarship to rewarding students with improving grades.

It would be unfair to neglect the school’s tough place financially with decreasing enrollment, and they have done everything they can to help many students financially, myself included, by soliciting more donor-funded scholarships and lowering GPA requirements. However, there should just be some sort of recognition for these students who improve their standing while at Calvin.