With the economic downturn of 2008, funding for public education took a major hit, and many college scholarships dried up.
“We saw a lot of scholarships disappear; donors weren’t able to continue funding them. Families were losing jobs and coming to the financial aid office trying to find additional resources,” said Ken Downs, Project Manager at the University of Arizona’s Scholarship Universe. “As you can imagine, when the economy was going downhill students needed to borrow more and more money. Some students were choosing not to go at all. They’d apply to college and never show up -- for various reasons, but one being that the financial aid process was too difficult.”
The university’s financial aid office began working on a way for families to find legitimate funding sources more easily and efficiently. That idea evolved into what is now Scholarship Universe, a website utilized by over 30,000 admitted students every year.
“There are a lot of scams out there, and we wanted students to see only vetted, relevant scholarship opportunities,” Downs said.
Matching students with a universe of opportunities
Scholarship Universe utilizes an advanced algorithm that matches students with both institutional and private external scholarships for which they are qualified, based on the student profile. All the departments and colleges on campus can implement their own scholarships through the system.
“As soon as students are admitted to the University of Arizona, they get access to the system, so incoming freshmen may be looking for scholarships for their first year of school almost a year before they enroll,” Downs said. “The site can be used throughout their college career at the university. There are scholarships for sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students.”
In 2017, the financial aid department tracked $6 million received by students through scholarships listed in the database.
Downs will share more information about the the development and management of Scholarship Universe in his session at the AACRAO SEM Conference in November. Learn more and register now.