October 30, 2015 | 3 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen, Communications Strategist
Donor-funded scholarships make up a significant portion of Bethel student financial aid. Recently, scholarship donors were honored with a dinner at the Anderson Center and a chance to meet the students their funds benefit. Students were also given the unique opportunity to thank the donors who help make their Bethel experience possible.
“The affordability of a college education is a huge issue for college students at Bethel and around the country,” says Deb Harless, executive vice president and provost. “These scholarships make a significant difference in helping students to be able to afford a Bethel education and to graduate with less debt. I am very grateful for the generous hearts of donors who make these scholarships possible.”
In the College of Arts & Sciences, 99% of students receive some kind of financial aid. The average undergraduate Bethel student receives $17,595 in gift aid, which doesn’t need to be paid back; $10,809 in loan eligibility; and $1,226 in earnings from a campus job.
“I think these scholarships are an aid to the liberal arts experience,” says Ben Cline ’16, a psychology and philosophy double-major that receives a music scholarship. “It frees me up to be able to pursue music with all my heart, participate in tours and lessons, and pursue things that create a holistic experience. It was so interesting to hear from alumni and donors—where they’re coming from, their stories—and what prompted them to be so generous toward our school.”
Half of Bethel Seminary students demonstrate financial need, and the average aid package includes gift aid of $2,350, loans for $10,481, and campus employment income of $249. Donor-funded scholarships make up a portion of the gift aid, and all of these pieces are an important consideration and added incentive for students weighing the cost of a college or seminary degree with the perceived benefits. Allowing donors to interact with current students offered an important chance for donors to understand the immediate impact they have on students.
“Research tells us that the cost of a seminary degree and the time it takes to complete the degree are significant factors in a person’s decision to attend seminary,” says Harless. “When we look into our data on students who apply and are accepted to Bethel Seminary, but who do not enroll, we find that it’s not a decision between attending Bethel Seminary or somewhere else. It’s a decision about attending Bethel Seminary or not attending seminary at all.” In addition to fostering relationships with seminary scholarship donors, Bethel Seminary recently reduced the time and cost required to complete a degree, both efforts are eliminating barriers for students considering a seminary degree.
“It’s great for students to see that there are faces behind the dollars. It’s easy to think the university’s giving us this money, but forget the faces and stories,” says Anna Tucker S’16, a master’s in divinity student. She notes that many seminary students are still dealing with debt from undergraduate programs, and many juggle ministry positions while in school with the hope of incurring as little debt as possible. “Scholarship funding helps us to be able to get a seminary degree and follow God’s call,” she says.