Ten colleges within Ohio State did not award more than $615,000 worth of scholarships. Credit: Amal Saeed | Photo Editor

Fifty in-state students could have attended Ohio State tuition-free this past year with the amount of scholarship money colleges left unspent. 

Ten colleges within Ohio State did not award $615,000 worth of undergraduate scholarships in fiscal year 2019, according to a Lantern analysis. That amounts to a tenth of available scholarship funds the colleges collectively manage, and the remaining funds could be a result of lack of applicants and narrow criteria. 

Scholarship data from fiscal year 2019 was collected from 10 of 12 Ohio State colleges that house undergraduate students.

The College of Engineering declined to provide scholarship figures, and the College of Medicine does not manage its own undergraduate scholarships. 

The amounts of and reasons for unawarded money varies by college. 

The College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences shelled out the most scholarship money, at more than $2.6 million. The College of Education and Human Ecology left the most unawarded, $372,604 of its available $1,099,622 undergraduate scholarship funds.

Two main reasons for not giving these funds are a lack of scholarship applicants and overly narrow eligibility criteria for awards, Robin Chenoweth, a spokesperson for the College of Education and Human Ecology, said in an email.

“For example, a large EHE scholarship established 20 years ago is designated for students from a specific country in a specific major,” Chenoweth said. “It was last awarded in 2014 because no students from that country have enrolled in that program since. The funds remain available for future students who qualify.”

Pat Whittington, assistant dean for student development and director of scholarship and financial aid for CFAES, said undistributed scholarships are a source of disappointment.

“Nothing upsets a donor any more than giving money to a university for a scholarship and then the money not being awarded,” Whittington said.

Colleges receive scholarship endowments from donors who often set criteria so a certain type of student receives the money. Each college has its own scholarship application and distribution processes.

Colleges also manage the scholarship funds at different levels. CFAES manages all scholarships at the college level, Whittington said, so individual school and departmental scholarships do not have a separate application. However, individual schools and departments within the College of Arts and Sciences administer their own scholarships, Kevin Leonardi, spokesperson for the college, said in an email.

Next year, Ohio State plans to create a new scholarship application for the more than 400 different scholarships managed by Student Financial Aid, Ben Johnson, university spokesperson, said in an email. The university plans to incorporate college-level scholarships in the application in the future.

“The application will make it easier for students to identify and apply for scholarship opportunities,” Johnson said.

Overall, the College of Education and Human Ecology was responsible for a majority of the unused funds, with three-fifths of the total amount of unawarded college-level scholarship money across colleges. 

The Fisher College of Business left approximately $124,000 unawarded of its available $1.12 million in undergraduate scholarship funds. 

One of the main reasons Fisher did not award the money is a lack of applicants meeting narrow criteria set by donors, Melanie Difeo, a spokesperson for Fisher, said. 

The College of Pharmacy left approximately $78,212 unawarded of its available $177,114 in  undergraduate scholarship funds.

The funds were not distributed because of a student unenrolling before receiving a scholarship and planning variances between covering in-state and out-of-state students’ tuition, Brittany McClaskey, a spokesperson for the College of Pharmacy, said in an email.

The College of Pharmacy was responsible for one-eighth of unspent college-level scholarship money.

The College of Arts and Sciences did not award approximately $40,000 of its available $1.04 million in undergraduate scholarship funds, a main reason being a lack of eligible applicants, Leonardi said.

When these funds are not given to students, the college either carries them over to the following year or returns them in hopes the donor will grow the investment and support more students in the future, Leonardi said.

“In any case, these funds exist for the sole purpose of providing scholarship support to Arts and Sciences students and are not used for any other purpose,” Leonardi said.

The College of Public Health left $2,300 of its available $11,900 undergraduate scholarship funds unawarded.

The College of Engineering declined to release specific scholarship figures but tries to award more than 600 scholarship accounts every year, David Tomasko, associate dean for undergraduate education and student services for the college, said in an email. 

Tomasko said disclosing an amount of money left unspent would be misleading.

“This ‘number’ is akin to asking for the level in a tank that is constantly being drained and refilled,” Tomasko said. “The level or balance at any point in time is simply meaningless and if published it would be subject to myriad rationalizations.”

CFAES, College of Social Work, College of Nursing, College of Dentistry and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs gave out all of their available scholarship funds managed at the college level in fiscal year 2019. 

“You have to be efficient and effective,” Whittington of CFAES said of distributing the college’s scholarships. “We want to make sure students can start school and finish in four years.”

CFAES shelled out $2,621,254 in scholarships this past year, the most of any college at Ohio State. It was able to provide the highest amount of scholarship money due to a single application for all scholarships and flexible criteria, Whittington said. 

Students fill out one application for all college, departmental and even state 4-H scholarships, a youth agriculture program, Whittington said. Rather than departments and schools processing their own applications for scholarships separately, students are automatically considered for all that they qualify.

Whittington said CFAES makes endowment descriptions flexible in case intended criteria is not met by any students.

“We want to make sure that those guidelines are set up so scholarships could be awarded each year,” Whittington said.

In total, the colleges of Social Work, Nursing, Dentistry and Public Affairs awarded $865,074 in fiscal year 2019. 

The College of Social Work distributed so much that some scholarships were not awarded due to inadequate funds, Frankie Jones-Harris said in an email.

Some of the colleges with leftover money are working on similar strategies to those of CFAES to make scholarships more accessible.

The College of Education and Human Ecology has been implementing some of these strategies under Dean Don Pope-Davis, who took over the position in mid-2018, Chenoweth said.

“My new administration has been working on infrastructure to support students effectively,” Pope-Davis said in an email. “One way we hope to do that is to work with past donors to broaden qualifications for existing scholarships so that more students can benefit from our donors’ generosity.”

Correction: A previous version of this story had the amount of scholarship funds available for the College of Education and Human Ecology as $727,018. This was the amount awarded; it has since been corrected to the appropriate amount available: $1,099,622.