Alexandra Korros likes to tell a story learned from her many days in the classroom, a story about students who finally, finally discover that single magical instant. “I had one marvelous student here on a full scholarship who, when she would figure out something, she just lit up. And she lit up the entire classroom while doing it.”
As director of the University Scholars honors program, Korros is a pragmatist who realizes there is a price tag attached to such priceless moments.“It’s scholarships that allow students like these to come here, when they’d have to go elsewhere. These are the kids who excel, are curious, embrace challenge, who elevate the discussions in our classrooms and—frankly—are fun to teach. We’ve had students who come through on scholarship and have literally changed the University. And all our students and faculty benefit from their engagement.”
The benefits of student scholarships are many and well documented—from the student perspective. Scholarships and other forms of student assistance fill the yawning “gap” between what it costs Xavier to educate a full-time student for one year and the average tuition paid by each student. This “gap” has an actual hard number associated with it: $16,621. But filling in the gap has huge benefits from another perspective—from those in the front of the classroom. The brighter the students, the more they can teach. The more they can teach, the more the students can learn. The more they learn, the more they can take with them into the world.
“I think you’ll find the topic, the availability of financial scholarships, is one that really resonates with faculty here, as it should,” says David Mengel, associate professor of history who is also faculty director for the Center for Teaching Excellence. “Scholarships have changed lives, there’s no doubt.”
“One student created the Habitat for Humanity chapter here, built two houses, and went on to Georgetown and Harvard Law,” says Korros. “He’s one model of everything you want a scholarship winner to become, someone who now represents Xavier so well at a national level.”
As associate professor of psychology Christian End points out, a student can’t go off volunteering at Children’s Hospital or spending a summer on intensive research if he or she is financially strapped.
“I’m lobbying for more financial aid to be directed at paying students to do research or activities,” he says. “The biggest reason is because it would allow Xavier students to take advantage of learning opportunities afforded here—programs and extracurriculars—rather than having to work at non-career jobs at UDF or Kroger just in order to just pay the basic bills.”
Students who can actually afford their seat in the classroom are currently at an all-time low. Freshmen entering college last year, in fact, were less likely to be attending their first university of choice than at any time in the past four decades, according to The American Freshman: National Norms 2011, a UCLA survey of some 204,000 high school students.
The reason for this discomforting decline? Combine a slumping economy with fewer grants and scholarships. The number of freshmen receiving grants or scholarships dropped a full four percentage points from the same survey a year previous.
That’s prompted some faculty to take matters into their own hands by creating their own scholarships to fund the students they teach.
Bill Daily, former chair of the Department of Communication Arts, is one. So is David Flaspohler.
“I have been lucky to know and teach so many of these incredible students who were able to attend Xavier only because of some sort of financial aid. No one understands the true depth of your generosity more than our deserving students.”
Flaspohler suggests that investing in support of the student body is the noblest form of enlightened self-interest for faculty.
“Our students arrive on campus as 18-year-olds and leave as confident young adults ready to take on the world,” Flaspohler says. “How can you not get excited about the transformation we teachers witness every day when we come to work?”