“We believe this new system is much more convenient for applicants,” said Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The online scholarship application went live on Jan. 5. As of March 17, 2009, more than 1,600 applications had been submitted for scholarships for the fall term.
Allyson Collinsworth, scholarships administrator, said applications are coming in much faster online than the paper applications did.
“Historically our office is able to award around 3,000 students each year. We have received half that number of applications only two months into the application season. Last year at this time we had only received 400 paper applications,” Collinsworth said.
For the 2008/2009 academic year, GBHEM awarded $4.57 million in scholarships to 3,371 students, and $1.95 million in loans to 430 students.
Loan applications went online in May 2008 for fall 2008 loans and again in December 2008 for spring 2009 loans. The response was so overwhelming that the application site was closed within weeks because more applications were received than could be funded.
“Scholarship deadlines vary for the more than 60 programs administered by GBHEM, but the final deadline has always been May 15. We are encouraging applicants (especially renewal students) to apply and complete the application early this year to insure they are considered for funding,” Collinsworth said.
The new system allows the staff to communicate by e-mail about requirements to complete an application. Applicants must submit an official transcript, letters of reference, and essay to the office in one packet to complete the file after the online portion is submitted. “We can now e-mail applicants on a regular basis to inform them of missing items and award notification,” she said.
The time saved by no longer needing to do data entry of applications gives staff more time to analyze the applications.
Applicants have provided positive feedback about the online application versus the paper applications. The applications have church and school wizards that enable the applicant to choose their current school and church from a list. These databases contain all accredited institutions within the United States, and all known United Methodist churches. That helps L&S staff verify church membership, and will allow the office to communicate more effectively to United Methodist churches and institutions regarding recipients from their local congregations or student body.
In addition to online applications, students can now repay their loans online.
To learn more about United Methodist loans and scholarships, visit www.gbhem.org and click on the Loans and Scholarships button.