Student Enrichment Services creates new application process for stipends, funds

Julia Doran, Reporter

Student Enrichment Services will launch a common application in the fall to help low-income students apply for various funds offered across campus.

SES director Kourtney Cockrell said she decided to create the application after noticing there were many grants and scholarships available for low-income students but not a system that organized them in a transparent, user-friendly way.

“I realized there was no standard landing page for people to browse and see all these different opportunities,” she said.

Similar to the Common Application accepted by many universities, the SES Common Application will be available to all students online. It will centralize and streamline sources of financial assistance from various departments and programs, allowing students to easily pinpoint and access relevant funds from one page, Cockrell said.

The application will list various sources of aid available, including scholarships for fraternities and sororities, the Student Activities Scholarship Fund, scholarships for Chicago Field Studies internships, the Summer Internship Grant Program and scholarships for Alternative Student Break trips, Cockrell said. Students will enter basic demographic information and describe their financial need in a short essay viewable to the groups maintaining grants and scholarship funds the student selects. Cockrell said this will make the process of applying for aid more convenient and less uncomfortable.

“When students usually apply for these funds, they have to constantly answer these questions about why they’re deserving of funding six or seven times over,” Cockrell said. “That certainly doesn’t help when it comes to feeling isolated, feeling different and feeling like an other, when you’re constantly having to reflect on why you don’t have the funds to fully participate here at Northwestern.”

Campus partners, including Northwestern Career Advancement, the Office of Campus Life and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, will each manage their own questions separate from the common application and specific to the funds they offer, as well as their selection and awarding processes, Cockrell said.

Jasper Pierson Walker, a department assistant in the Office of Student Engagement who has been working with Cockrell on the project, said the application will make it easier for low-income students to become involved on campus.

“We kind of have a pay-to-play model at Northwestern, where if you want to join some groups, you have to pay fees and dues in order to be a part of them,” she said. “With this program, we’re removing some of those barriers so students can feel free to explore and connect and find communities in different ways. I think this will allow students to dream a little bit bigger and not hold themselves back.”

McCormick junior Steffany Bahamon, president of the NU Quest Scholars Network, said the application will prove useful for low-income students, whose financial status often defines their experiences at NU.

She said financial difficulties can create obstacles in both academic and extracurricular life.

“Even for popular events on campus like Dance Marathon or Ski Trip or being involved in Greek life, having funds to do those things is very difficult if you’re low income,” Bahamon said. “In addition to that, if you don’t have enough funds to pay for your textbooks or any software you might need, that damages your academic ability.”

Bahamon also said stress related to lack of funds can affect the emotional and mental health of students, who often take on extra jobs or struggle to find different sources of aid for various expenses.

Cockrell said she noticed in her first months working at SES that a strong community from the University supports low-income students.

“I hope that this will really open up transparency and demonstrate a lot of the commitment from across the university that administration and staff and faculty have for the students,” she said.

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