Students lose scholarships due to reinstated housing requirements

Published September 15, 2021, University of Mary Washington Weekly Ringer

by Jean Mondoro and Scotti Mullen

Senior Writer & News Editor

This semester, UMW is returning to many pre-COVID regulations, including the requirement to live on campus to retain merit-based scholarships. This requirement was waived for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, but with in-person classes resuming, the housing requirement is in place once again. 

Senior math major Ingrid Dizon is one of the students that lost a scholarship due to this change.

“I’m a senior now and I lived off campus my junior year since we found out that it would be cheaper than living in Eagle Landing,” she said. “Due to COVID, they let us keep the scholarship. However, for this school year, I got an email from the Financial Aid Office that they will be canceling scholarships for those that do not meet the housing requirements, so I will be losing mine during this week.”

On Aug. 11, less than two weeks before move-in, the University sent an email about this change to students with merit-based scholarships that had not registered for on-campus housing. The email was also sent out after students were billed for the semester. Of UMW’s approximately 4,400 students, 1,583 of them live off-campus, according to Anna Billingsley, associate vice president of University Relations.

Emily Landry, a sophomore biology major, lost her scholarship due to the housing requirement.

“I have received a merit-based scholarship (I have the Blue and Gray as well as the Presidential),” she said. “This scholarship does require me to live on campus, and I just lost it this year since I’m now a commuter student. I had to really convince my parents in order for me to live off-campus because I lost a lot of tuition money when I did.” 

Back in 2013, when the merit-based scholarship program was started, the rules stated that there would be a requirement to live on campus.  

“We know that a residential experience leads to greater success in the classroom and higher retention/graduation rates,” said Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski.  “We want to provide [an] incentive to live on campus.”

According to Yakabouski, waiving the on-campus housing requirement was not intended to be a permanent change.

“UMW leadership made the decision to pause this renewal requirement during the summer of 2020 at a time of incredible uncertainty,” she said. “We were unsure if we would be able to return to campus and what that would look like if we could. We recognized that given this uncertainty, students and their families needed flexibility to do what was best for them, which included the option to remain at home with virtual learning. We know students and parents appreciated the flexibility. It was clear, though, that the exception would be for the 2020-21 year.”

Junior music major Hailey Amick disagrees with the rule. 

“It impacts students’ financial needs,” said Amick. “You should be able to live off-campus if you are getting a scholarship that is based on your GPA from high school.”

Sophomore communication and digital studies major Mary Marcell also does not agree with the rule.

“I think there need to be more reasons as to why you need to be living on campus to keep the scholarships when the person worked hard to receive it,” said Marcell. “You’re still attending the University of Mary Washington, even if you’re not living on campus.”

Some students feel that this rule should not be in place.

“It doesn’t really make sense to me why they would take away the scholarship due to housing requirements,” said Dizon. “COVID is still very present in the community and some professors are still choosing to teach over zoom or do a hybrid lecture.”

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