Financial need is a section of any scholarship that people may dread, or they may look forward to filling out. How much money you possess, or the income that your parents make can be the single thing that either qualifies or disqualifies you for a scholarship.

Scholarships are often based on two aspects, qualification and financial need. For those people who have parents that have worked hard and earned a hefty income, chances are that obtaining a scholarship that has need as a factor is quite low. These people are seen as those who do not need scholarships financially, and therefore can be overlooked.  Why is it fair for these people to be automatically weeded out because their parents earn more than others?

More than likely, those who do not possess financial need, come from families who make a lot of money and provide for much of their college education.  With this being said, it is fair to assume that they are receiving little to no help from the government or their institution in the form of grants, and therefore are paying close to full price for their education (minus academic scholarships).

Let’s, hypothetically, compare a wealthy student (student A) paying $25,000 a year for college versus someone less well off (student B), who is paying $10,000 a year for college, due to grants. They are both applying for the same independent scholarship. Note that student A is already at a disadvantage before applying for this scholarship, since he is paying an extra $15,000 a year for tuition. Student A has a G.P.A. of 3.7 and is involved in several activities on campus, and his parents make $100,000 a year.  Student B has a 3.4 G.P.A., is involved in one student group, and his parents make $40,000 a year.  Upon reviewing the applications, the board decides to give the scholarship to student B, since student A’s parents are going to pay for his tuition regardless of winning the scholarship or not.

Does this seem fair? Absolutely not, yet it happens time and time again.  Financial need should not be such a large factor when determining who truly deserves a scholarship. Rather, it should be decided based on a student’s qualifications, and if some sort of tie occurs, only then should financial need be looked at as a tiebreaker. The bottom line is grades and involvement should be the basis for selection, not financial information.

When scholarships are saved for the needy, then the middle and upper class (who are generally already carrying a larger financial burden due to lack of FAFSA support), are taking even a bigger hit. The parents or the student themselves may have to pay a lot more money out of their pocket than the less well off, simply because they are not seen as needy enough for a scholarship or governmental assistance. Well-endowed students might have to take out heftier loans than other students. Punishing a student for growing up in a financially stable home is not justifiable by any means, and having financial need be a necessity for a scholarship commits this injustice.

I do sympathize with those students who may have a financial burden greater than most due to their parents being unable to provide for them.  Parental contribution and income is something that is out of student’s control, so they deserve help where it is needed. It is tough for these students to make it through college because of the immense financial burden that college offers, especially those who are first generation college students.  We need to make college affordable to these people in anyway possible, without leaving out everyone else.

I urge anyone who may influence scholarships, either now or may have some influence in their future, to take into account that scholarships are for everyone who has worked hard, not just the needy.  We need to make qualification the first priority, and put financial need on the backburner. Those less well off should have to earn their scholarships through their qualifications.