Not every student who enters the College of Biology and Agriculture exits with a degree. But those who withdraw don't always do it for academic reasons. Many simply can't afford to attend any longer.
"Unfortunately every year there are some who, in spite of their best efforts, find themselves unable to carry on. They struggle to support themselves financially," said Rodney Brown, dean of the College of Biology and Agriculture.
Diana McGuire, chair of the college Scholarship Committee, says
giving each student a fair opportunity at getting the education
they desire is at the heart of the mission and spirit of BYU.
Diana McGuire is chair of the College's Scholarship Committee and professor of dietetics and nutrition. "We know that there are many students who are careworn from trying to keep their heads above water," she said, "and who eventually drop out." The data back up McGuire's perception. According to a recent survey by the dean's office, more than 30 students within the College did not return for the 2005-2006 school year because they lacked the financial means.
"Many of our students work both during the school year and summers, but still find it difficult to support their education without taking an extended break," Dean Brown said. "Some of those breaks are never closed, and the students do not return Our goal, now, is to prevent such breaks from ever becoming a necessity."
The Scholarship Committee meets yearly to match scholarship applicants with candidates. "Most people who donated scholarships had in mind supporting outstanding academic performance," McGuire said. She notes that in fact most scholarships, both at BYU overall and within the College, are directed to students with the highest grade point averages. "I'm sorry to say that some students are unable to realize their potential because they are working while others are studying," she said. "Often a student just needs a little temporary help to get over a hurdle. Then they can move on and help themselves."
Kyle Tresner, donor liaison for the College, works with alumni and other donors. "It's disturbing," he said, "that, given our overall resources today; we have students who withdraw because of finances. Often, students who struggle money-wise are the first in their families to go to college," he said. "This sometimes means they don't come from middle-to-upper-class situations and have to pay every
cent along the way."
"We have a good number of scholarships within the College," Tresner said, "and they are an enormous benefit to students. As a rule however, donors have directed their money towards academic merit; we currently have only a handful of needs-based scholarships."
Von Jolley, professor of Plant and Animal Sciences, said that last year his department gave out 77 scholarships. "Only three of those could be assigned on a needs basis," he said. "The money behind those three came from members of our own faculty and staff who have given back a part of their pay check every month. We need to do more," Jolley said. "And we need a better way to identify students with financial need. It can be very sensitive. Some just slip away and don't let anyone know."
In a 1996 address to announce BYU's "Lighting the Way" fundraising campaign President Hinckley said: "You never can foretell the consequences of a dollar invested in education. It goes on multiplying itself. It becomes not an expenditure but an investment that pays returns far and wide and through generations to come."
Diana McGuire knows President Hinckley's observations are right. She said she can't say enough about the "limitless potential" of the students with whom she interacts. "They are the cream of the crop," she declared. "They are pushing and driving forward to the point that the faculty has to scramble to keep up with their abilities. They are so willing to tackle difficult subjects. They do research at the undergraduate level that at many other universities would be graduate-level work. At the same time they are doing so many things out in the community and in church. Giving each one a fair opportunity at getting the education they desire is at the heart of the mission and spirit of BYU."
Dean Brown has witnessed the same extraordinary potential and great passion for learning. "These students shine from within because of their intellect, their spirituality, and all the things they have done before even coming here," he said. "We've been doing a nice job of assisting them academically. But thirty students out of three thousand (that's one percent) falling through the cracks because of a lack of funds, sounds too much like one lost sheep out of the ninety and nine. With a little help, and work on our part, we can fix that."