Plea for more transfer scholarships

When it comes to awarding merit scholarships, the kneejerk reaction of universities seems to be: give them to incoming freshmen. Though the student body has many other worthy potential recipients, freshmen that are entering college for the first time seem to be the only ones who are considered for merit scholarship “packages.” At most colleges, incoming transfers generally receive less financial support than incoming freshmen, but at Oswego State, the available funds for merit transfer scholarships are appallingly limited.

Oswego State offers two merit scholarships to incoming transfers: the Destination Oswego scholarships, ranging from $5,000 to $8,000 annually, and a one-time $1,000 transfer scholarship. This would be great if were easy to qualify for these merit scholarships, but it is not.

The Destination Oswego scholarships are intended to compensate for the higher tuition rates of non-New York state residents, and, therefore, are only given to those who move from outside of New York. The one-time transfer scholarships are awarded only to those who already have 57 or more credits before transferring – roughly four to six full time semesters.

It’s great that there is a merit scholarship like the one-time transfer scholarship. I expect that these go to the sort of students who really need the help; for example, students who spent their first two years at more affordable community colleges. At the same time, it’s a one-time scholarship for a pretty measly amount of money, as far as college expenses go. It would cover tuition and expenses for my calculus course, with nothing left over. This seems like a half-hearted way to show that Oswego State values its transfer students.

The process of transferring to a new school is daunting enough as it is. There’s the general nervousness about launching into a new experience, lots of paperwork, the difficulty of getting into classes well into the registration period and possibly moving. Now add to this how little you feel valued as a transfer student by the limited scholarships availible. It’s not                              exactly welcoming.

I recently felt this firsthand. If it weren’t for the kindness of my adviser and his tireless effort to get me a decent schedule, my transfer could have been a much bigger mess. His help was a stroke of luck that mitigated what seems to be an institutional failure. The transfer process simply needs to be rethought and fixed. A good way to start is by making transfer scholarships larger and more easily accessible.

This isn’t just an issue of sending the right message to transfer students. Universities reserve their truly generous scholarship packages to incoming freshmen in order to lure in a talented and diverse student body. This raises the standards for everybody on campus. But the same rationale applies also to transfer students. Why not use generous packages to lure in talented sophomores and juniors who are studying elsewhere? If anything, it would be easier to estimate their merit when they have a few semesters of college courses on their transcripts, and recommendation letters from college professors.

It is not only Oswego State that neglects to consider transfer students for their best scholarships. This seems to be the norm. But why should we simply copy the unwise policies of other colleges? If they neglect transfer students, this presents us with a great opportunity. Let’s poach their most talented sophomores and juniors, and lure them here with meaningful merit aid and a painless transition program. In two or three years, these talented students will turn into talented Oswego State alumni, in a position to be valuable to their new community and their helpful alma mater. Considering them for incentives similar to those that are given to freshmen is not simply a question of fairness; it’s also a wise investment.