by Clem Boyd
Cedarville Magazine spoke with Will Smallwood (WS), Vice President for Advancement, and Scott Van Loo ’98 (SVL), Vice President for Enrollment Management, about the importance of scholarships in making a Cedarville education affordable and attainable for students. They also shared how supporters can help ensure the long-term strength and growth of the University.
How important are scholarships and other types of financial aid in making a Cedarville education accessible for our students?
SVL: One of the first questions prospective students and families ask is what scholarships are available. It’s important for us to be able to respond that we have scholarships and financial aid available that will make Cedarville affordable. We address it in our Cedarville University Experience session when students and families visit. We share our total costs and the average financial need per student so they can start to get their minds around what it is going to cost to attend.
What is the heart behind financial aid?
SVL: We would love to be able to make a Cedarville education available to any student or family who feels God directing them our way. It’s always difficult to walk alongside students who want to be here but are not able to make the financial part work. Our financial aid program and a growing endowment will help make those conversations easier with families and students.
What role do federal grants and loans play in students being able to attend Cedarville?
SVL: The federal (Pell) grants are dollars available to students who are in the most need. When a student completes the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the university receives data on that student and their family’s ability to afford an education.
If the family is seen by the federal government as not having the means, they will be eligible for the Pell as well as supplemental Pell dollars. Then if a student still needs to take out loans, if they are eligible for Pell, all student loan programs typically start with the federal loan program because it is one of the lowest interest rate programs available to students and families.
What challenges, if any, does the University face in participating in federal aid programs?
SVL: I’m not aware of any direct challenges that we face now, but there are societal pressures. Should there be lawsuits that would remove our tax-exempt status, then that would remove our ability to participate in the federal aid program. We make the program widely available to all our students so if it were to go away, we would need to fill in that gap for students.
How is the university preparing if it should have to step away from federal funding in the future?
WS: Two of the four priorities of One Thousand Days Transformed: The Campaign for Cedarville address the need for resources to continue providing an excellent education and intentional discipleship in submission to biblical authority for the next generations of students.
First, our challenge is making sure every student who desires a Cedarville education can afford to enroll and graduate unencumbered by excessive debt. Gifts provide an affordable and accessible pathway for students to be transformed by a Cedarville education. Second, institutional sustainability is a critical component of the campaign. Cedarville is committed to standing firm against cultural headwinds, and estate and planned gifts provide assurance that financial giving will continue well into the future.
Cedarville is on strong financial footing. How can donors ensure that this continues for the generations to come?
WS: The strong financial position of Cedarville is attributed wholly to the grace and mercy of God. We are simply stewards of His great generosity of sending students, providing world-class faculty and staff, and blessing us with incredible financial partners. And while Cedarville may be in a season of unprecedented growth, we are in full reliance upon the Lord to provide donors who are committed to the mission and vision of the institution. As donors respond generously to the kingdom advancement taking place at Cedarville, we will continue to steward every gift for the glory of God and the sustainability of the institution.
SVL: Adding to Dr. Smallwood’s thoughts, I would say when donors give to scholarship funds that go directly to students through endowment, they’re helping ensure financial stability. Endowments are funds that the university manages that bear interest, and as they bear interest, that interest is returned in scholarship dollars, and those scholarship dollars go directly to students, while the endowment continues to grow and is there for perpetuity. If Cedarville can grow its endowment, it would make a Cedarville education affordable and attainable for students even beyond where we are today.
How can donors support scholarships?
WS: There are three major initiatives at Cedarville University that provide scholarships for students.
First, the Cedarville Fund allows us to keep tuition low and budget scholarships through annual gifts. These gifts provide immediate funds for pressing needs.
Second, donor-funded annual scholarships provide resources to worthy students on a yearly basis. Pending their desire, donors can renew these gifts each year.
Third, endowed scholarships provide consistent, reliable funding for students with financial need or who demonstrate academic excellence.
How can they start a scholarship?
WS: Starting a scholarship begins simply with a desire to make a transformative difference in the lives of students, and the scholarship types noted previously allow donors to jump in at any funding level. Once a commitment to assisting students has been made, the advancement team is available to assist in accomplishing your philanthropic goals. We will walk you through every step of the process from determining the type of scholarship to selecting the criteria for recipients. To learn more how you can establish a scholarship fund, contact Kate Cooper, Cedarville’s scholarship and annual giving manager, at email@example.com or call 937-766-3219.
As we wrap up, what would you like to share with supporters of Cedarville about the University and the direction God is taking us?
WS: First, I want to express our deep sense of gratitude for the generosity of Cedarville alumni and friends to invest in life transformation. To date, donors to the $125 million One Thousand Days Transformed campaign have gifted nearly $106 million to expand our capacity, reduce student debt, transform lives in and out of the classroom, and provide for the future of Cedarville University. Second, we count it as joy to have front row seats to all God is doing at Cedarville. In fact, one of our culture statements in Advancement speaks to this directly: We believe what God is doing at Cedarville is too amazing to miss.
SVL: It's an exciting time to be here, to see the growth in the university, not just in student numbers, but in the lives being transformed. Going back to our mission statement: We transform lives through excellent education and intentional discipleship in submission to biblical authority.
What’s exciting for me in my role is to listen to families and students when you ask them, “Why are you considering Cedarville with all the colleges and universities out there?” I hear them answer in much the same way that I did when I decided to attend here in the fall of 1994: you sense the presence of God on this campus, you sense this is a place where you will be encouraged to grow in your faith, and you will be challenged through an excellent education that will prepare you for what God has next.
Twenty-five years removed from graduating, I still hear students and families speak to those same values and the same qualities of Cedarville that were here when I attended. In a world that has shifted and changed, Cedarville has remained steadfast, and there are fewer and fewer institutions out there like that. God continues to bring students to Cedarville. We’re just blessed to be part of what He is doing here.