READING, PA (June 10, 2019) – This year, Berks County Community Foundation is awarding $635,421 in scholarships to 283 students (mostly from Berks County) to help them in their pursuit of higher education.
At the Community Foundation, our most serious and highest obligation is to respect the intent of our donors. In the case of donors who established scholarships, they almost universally described their interests as “helping to make college more affordable for others.” As a result, we have implemented a new policy regarding scholarship awards.
Starting this year, we required colleges and universities whose students receive awards from the Community Foundation to certify that the college will not reduce the aid provided to the student due to a scholarship from the Community Foundation. This had become an increasing problem as higher education expanded the use of “tuition discounts” to attract students. Tuition discounts are not really financial aid.
Many colleges vastly overstate their “sticker price” to appear to be more prestigious and elite. They then routinely offer deep discounts to attract students. Last year, those discounts exceeded 50% of the sticker price across the country for the first time and many schools had no students who paid the full price. Tuition discounting is a practice that we’ve never really understood, and a small number of colleges (including Albright College) have decided to discontinue the practice. Moreover, the practice is mostly limited to private colleges.
We’ve had a significant problem with colleges reducing the discount that they offer students after the colleges learn of scholarships that were awarded by the Community Foundation. This had the effect of turning our scholarship funds into grants to colleges and not to the students.
So beginning with this year’s scholarships, we’ve made it clear that if the college is going to reduce the student’s aid (essentially increasing the sticker price), we simply won’t bestow the award.
I’m pleased that all of our local colleges (Albright, Alvernia, Kutztown, Penn State, and Reading Area Community College) have agreed to comply with our policy, as have many of the other schools that Berks County students attend.
This new policy is a much better way to honor our donor’s wishes. It actually helps families to better afford college and it’s perfectly fair to the colleges and universities.
Kevin K. Murphy, President
Berks County Community Foundation