Spring break is upon us! Over the next few days, Ferris State students will scatter to various warm climates for spring break next week. When the RMI students return in mid-March, they will be facing several imminent scholarship deadlines. The amount of scholarship assistance that is available to today’s RMI student is impressive, uplifting, and dare I say, overwhelming. The ever-growing list of RMI scholarships certainly reflects the industry’s urgent need for young talent, and that should speak volumes to those students and parents still contemplating an academic and career direction.
Many of these scholarships have springtime application deadlines so that awards may be made during May for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year. This time of year, I receive multiple scholarship opportunities each week that I pass along to my RMI students. As I have blogged in the past, there are also several online resources (including our own partial list) that will help students to find RMI scholarships. There is absolutely no reason that a diligent student cannot find at least some scholarship assistance for their RMI education.
All of this is good. Or is it? Let me return to my prior use of the word “overwhelming” as it relates to these scholarships. There are so many scholarship opportunities from every type of RMI organization imaginable, that students seem to be “freezing up” when it comes to applying for these scholarships. With so many opportunities, it becomes difficult for the individual student to discern which opportunities afford them the best chance of receiving an award, and with limited time to crank out scholarship applications, they can apply for only so many. In fact, this is beginning to be noticed by the awarding organizations as I have begun to receive queries from some scholarship sponsors as to why their application numbers are lower than expected. To be clear, I don’t think that’s a universal condition as many of the established and well-known scholarships continue to receive plenty of applicants and award their scholarships only to the most deserving students. It seems to be the newer, lesser-known scholarships that are struggling to find applicants.
This is a real shame because these sponsoring organizations have funds to help students, and they really do want to bolster the young talent coming into the industry. I hesitate to say that there may be an over-supply of RMI scholarships because that almost feels blasphemous. How could there ever be an over-supply of such a fantastic thing as scholarship money when tuition and book costs continue to rise?
I have an idea. What if some of these scholarship sponsoring organizations who are struggling to generate applicants diverted those scholarships funds for a few years? Instead of begging for student applicants, put the funds into the hands of the collegiate RMI programs to use for program marketing and enrollment growth initiatives. More RMI students enrolled at schools equals more future scholarship applicants. Now, you might argue that the scholarships themselves should be a powerful recruiting tool for boosting RMI enrollment. Absolutely true, but there is much more to the student decision to major in RMI and I believe that the individual RMI schools are in the best position to convey the overall value proposition (including abundant scholarship opportunities) to prospective students – but not many schools have budgeted funds specifically for marketing their RMI academic programs.
This could be an interesting short-term tactical shift for some scholarship sponsors that pays off with a long-term strategic success of awarding more scholarships to the most deserving students (however each awarding organization may define that) a few years down the road.