Similar to a game of Twister, students with financial need feel like they’re being pulled in many directions. They manage financial pressures, work-related stress and college requirements in a delicate balance that can feel like collapse is inevitable at the next spin of the wheel.
Last week, Student Foundation held a Twister tournament at the MU Student Recreation Center to fundraise for students who feel these financial pressures — specifically, students who work off campus 20 or more hours per week.
Student Foundation is a group of five MU students who work in partnership with the Service-Learning and the Development offices to raise money for student scholarships. A graduate assistant leads the students, and the group relies on outside volunteers for success. The organization reformed on the MU campus in fall 2004.
“Our main purpose is to create a culture of giving on this campus,” said Shira Blumengarten, Student Foundation graduate assistant.
The Twister tournament Wednesday raised $188 for student scholarships. Thirty eight students participated, and 25 volunteers came to referee and spin the Twister wheel. Blumengarten said it’s more about planting a seed and building a foundation for the future than how much money was raised.
Before diving into fundraising efforts, members of Student Foundation met with Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management, to identify a particular student group that needs scholarships.
“Students who work 20 or more hours off campus are dropping out more and more,” said Hannah Davis, a member of Student Foundation. “This makes the economic diversity on campus decline.”
Korschgen said research shows the learning environment is significantly better in an environment of diversity.
A retention study completed by the Development Office in fall 2003 showed a 26 percent decline in the number of students from households earning $24,000 or less annually. The study surveyed students who had dropped out of school the previous semester. Of those who were surveyed, 61 percent had jobs; more than half of those students worked jobs off campus.
Jeremy Henry, a history major at MU, works 27 to 30 hours per week at Old Chicago. He works at the restaurant and bar to pay for his gas, groceries, rent and tuition. Henry started college five years ago at St. Louis Community College at Meramec where he worked at the on-campus library reference desk 10 to 15 hours per week and at Old Navy 40 hours per week.
Henry’s perspective is that working an on-campus job is “more of a wants-based thing.”
“Maybe your parents pay tuition and rent, but you pick up groceries and fun money,” he said. “People who work off campus have to pay something other than a want or a basic need. They usually have to pay for everything.”
Korschgen said rising tuition costs at MU and high material expectations of students are deterrents to those who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. She remembers being in college at a time when there were no expectations for her to have a car, cell phone and computer.
During the 2004-2005 school year, tuition increased 7.5 percent. The previous year, it rose 19.8 percent.
“If we are truly to serve the population of the state, that means serving all socio-economic and ethnic groups,” Korschgen said.
After the 2003 survey, MU increased the need-based aid offered to students.
In September, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton announced the “For All We Call Mizzou” campaign would continue for three more years with a fundraising goal of $1 billion, $400 million more than the original $600 million goal. Deaton said a portion of this additional $400 million will be used for student scholarships to make the university more accessible.
Since 2002, institutional monies used for student financial aid, merit and need-based, increased by $6.8 million.
Korschgen said more can be done. The Development Office is looking at including additional scholarships, more on-campus jobs and financial counseling.
“The problem is, no one has done a study to find out how many students work,” Korschgen said. “We have no sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Student Foundation will continue its fundraising efforts with the second annual Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament in the spring to raise more scholarship money. Lucie Macias, a member of Student Foundation, said the organization tries to make all of their tournaments different and fun,
“It’s important you give back to your school that’s educating you,” said Macias. “It feels good to know you could be helping the person next to you in class.”