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Obama Scholars Program is a Scholarship, ASU Argues; Aid Program Draws on Mixed Funding Sources

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The ASU Advantage program is a scholarship, despite the fact that it was never called a scholarship prior to being renamed the Barack Obama Scholars Program, Arizona State University officials argue.

This could just be a game of semantics: Is it a financial aid program or a scholarship? Terri Shafer, ASU vice president of communications tells New Times that it's a scholarship because "financial aid" connotes a payback of some sort, whereas "scholarship" means a free, full ride: tuition, books, meals -- the works.

Yet Shafer's explanation that the program was too special to be included on an ASU list of scholarships seems too convenient.

Before being renamed, (actually, Crow says it's renamed, but the Web site calls the program "Advantage" as of this morning), the program is a method of pooling together grants from federal and other sources, private donations and scholarships, all packaged seamlessly for the disadvantaged student who simply goes to college for free. Shafer says the program is unique among the nation's universities, that there's "nothing controversial" about it.

Shafer, by the way, is the official who wrote in an e-mail that ASU "blew it" in the flap over an honorary degree for Obama.

Still, we wonder about those funding sources -- especially since they might be changing, according to an e-mail from ASU spokeswoman Sharon Keeler:


The ASU Advantage program will be renamed and expanded as the President Barack Obama Scholars program. A scholarship is an award of access to an institution, or a financial aid award for a student to further education (see Wikipedia). Another definition describes a scholarship as a sum of money or other aid granted to a student, because of merit, need, etc., to pursue his or her studies (see dictionary.reference.com). A scholarship, by definition, does not need to be funded through a single source.

What distinguishes a scholarship is that, unlike a loan, it does not require repayment. A combination of financial aid resources that do not require repayment, including gifts, endowment proceeds and grants, will fund the President Barack Obama Scholars program. We are currently working on the details of program expansion, including funding sources. We¹ll have more information on program expansion at a later date.

It appears that ASU is custom-fitting this program for the occasion.

Keeler was responding to an e-mail we sent ASU officials about the program -- still unanswered is the percentage of actual "scholarship" money in ASU Advantage.

That's "scholarship," as in how the word is used on the program's own Web site

ASU will award recipients the following potential combinations of aid. These awards do not require repayment.

* Pell Grants--this federal gift assistance program supports students who have exceptional need.

* Institutional Grants--ASU gift assistance available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. These grants include the ASU Grant, the University Grant and the ASU Advantage Grant.

* FSEOG and LEAP Grants--gift assistance available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.

* Federal Work-Study--a student employment program that allows students to earn funds to assist in paying their educational costs.

* Scholarships-- gift assistance awarded by ASU and private donors that recognizes exceptional achievement.

* Outside Resources--funding received from outside sources that assists students in paying for their educational expenses.

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