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Scholarship Applications from UCR Engineers Nearly Double in 2020

Transfer students at library

Last year 356 undergraduate students at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering applied for college-based scholarships. This year the number increased to 620, nearly doubling the ranks of hopeful student applicants. Financial impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extended scholarship application period, increased student enrollments, and a more concerted effort to promote scholarship opportunities are among the contributing factors for the spike in students seeking aid.

While the submission deadline to apply for scholarships traditionally ends in February, college leaders extended the application period to allow students who have experienced hardships related to the pandemic, and may not have applied earlier in the year, an opportunity to apply.

“During sharp economic downturns, some students are left to make tough decisions like leaving college for full-time employment to help provide for their families,” said Marko Princevac, the engineering college’s associate dean for student affairs. “Extending the scholarship deadline helps us support some of our most vulnerable students so they don’t have to choose between their future success and their family’s well-being.”

The engineering college also continues to grow with increased enrollment by 250 students in year-over-year comparisons. When asked about the sizable increase in applications, Princevac indicated that more students means more financial need. The college serves a unique population with approximately one third of undergraduate students coming from low-income households and 40 percent being Pell grant recipients. Nearly half of engineering undergraduates are first-generation college students who are more likely to need assistance navigating the higher education system, even more so during the shift to remote instruction.

“Scholarship support shouldn’t rely on a student’s ability to work the system,” said Rod Smith, director of engineering student affairs. “This year, we broadened our outreach efforts to ensure all of our students were informed of the opportunities available to apply for scholarship aid.”

Smith, who manages the annual scholarship application process, says it’s important that students, who are primarily focused on their studies, receive scholarship messages through a variety of channels. In addition to emailing scholarship deadlines to students, the college also emailed parents encouraging them to connect with their students about application opportunities.

The college currently holds 17 endowed scholarships and receives donations from dozens of alumni and friends of the college to support annual scholarships. These funds allow the college to currently provide a cumulative total of about $50,000 in scholarship and fellowship support to students each year.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college launched an emergency fund to help impacted students. The amount raised for The Engineering Fund for Student Success will go toward helping students continue their education and assist them in meeting basic needs. Smith believes students gain much more than financial support through scholarships.

“Each scholarship recipient learns the background of the endowed fund, the meaning behind its establishment, and, in some cases, even meet the donors in person,” he said. “Our students experience first-hand this widespread support network committed to their success. It’s a confidence and morale booster that allows students to focus more on success, enrichment, and innovation and less on financing their education – and that makes better engineers.”

That sense of motivation extends to the donors as well. Princevac, a donor himself to scholarship funds, says even a small contribution can make a big difference in a student’s future.

“In my 15-year educational career, I’ve witnessed some incredible student transformations as a result of donor generosity,” said Princevac. “It feels good to see our successful alumni where they are today because of the support they have received and it’s even more rewarding when those students give back to the next generation.”

Nearly every major advancement in today’s society is a result of an engineering solution. While not everyone is an engineer, people can contribute in different ways.

“We all have a role to play in pursuit of more meaningful impact for our communities,” said Smith. “We need your contribution. The return on investment is more than worthwhile, it could reshape our future and the world as we know it.”

To contribute to engineering scholarships at UC Riverside, visit https://www.engr.ucr.edu/giving.