|By Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland)
All too often, students about to embark on the next chapter of education receive a breakdown of their college bill only to find scholarship money they received from community organizations had been deducted from their financial aid package from their chosen school.
This unfortunate practice is called scholarship displacement and was recently addressed by legislation I was proud to help get signed into law.
In short, scholarship displacement penalized students who went above and beyond to qualify for and earn additional scholarships. How the questionable scheme worked is a student who received $10,000 in financial aid from a Pennsylvania public university and then is awarded a $5,000 private scholarship would find that the university, more often than not, would reduce the student’s financial aid by $5,000. This meant the student, who worked hard for the $5,000 scholarship, did not actually receive any additional money for his or her education. Rather, the extra money would be redistributed to other students at the discretion of their university.
This issue hits close to home for us here in Adams County. Ralph Serpe, President and CEO of the Adams County Community Foundation, has been dealing with the dilemma of local students who received scholarships through the foundation only for them to lose out on financial aid from public universities. As Ralph clearly explained, donors contributed money for certain scholarships to help individual students within their communities, not to go to schools to spend as they see fit.
Seeing the need for a legislative change, Ralph contacted Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) and me seeking a solution to the issue. Consequently, we introduced legislation that would become law as part of the state budget this year. I recently had Ralph on my podcast By the way…Did you know?
to talk about scholarship displacement. This episode, and others, can be found at RepEcker.com/mypodcasts
We have already seen the positive impact of this law. Ralph informed me that one student had received a bill from the public college he is attending and noticed his financial aid had been reduced by the amount of a scholarship he received. After contacting school officials to tell them of the new law, his full financial aid and scholarship were restored.
Currently, the law only effects Pennsylvania’s public universities. One would expect all institutions of higher education in the state to follow suit and give students the scholarship money they have earned. However, if it becomes necessary, we will look to further expand on this law to require it.
Representative Torren Ecker
193rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross