Over the course of five days, Regents Scholarship holders at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln went from having scholarships that offered them funds for full tuition up to 135 credit hours reduced to 120 beginning this fall, and then back again.
Kailynn Jensen of Blair is one of the scholars who received an email from the NU Board of Regents on June 15 which read in part, “Currently, the Board of Regents policy requires all undergraduate degree programs be capped at 120 credit hours, with a few exceptions. This allows the majority of students the ability to graduate in four years when they complete an average of 15 credit hours each semester. Starting Fall 2020, the Regents Scholar Tuition Commitment will be capped at the number of credit hours required by your degree program, typically 120 credit hours (reduced from 135 credit hours).”
“At first, when I read it, I thought it was no big deal, but then I thought back to when I first received the scholarship in high school and how that felt,” she said. “To me, it meant that I could actually go to college, there are so many other students at the university who thought that same way.”
Jensen said she thought about all the other low-income students at the university who would have to pay the extra $4,000 this fall if that were the policy and what a huge deal that would be.
Then, she started a petition on change.com, which garnered nearly 600 signatures.
“I didn't expect it to go as far as it did. I knew it would affect a lot of students,” she said. “I was surprised it was my petition that went viral and it was being posted by people I didn't send it to.”
Jensen thought someone else would have done a petition.
“It ended up being a lot of work and communicating with the university,” she said. “The scholarship office said it's exactly what was happening, and students would have to figure it out. They reached out to me after people were signing the petition.”
Jensen had a lot of back and forth conversations to make sense of this letter. She said she received a response on Twitter saying the scholarship was going to be supported for the full 135 credits; the financial aid office said it was going to happen but Regents Scholars would have to turn in a form.
Jensen was contacted student body president Roni Miller and later by the Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Justin Brown regarding this petition.
“The student body president told me nothing was changing and current students would get the 135 credits,” she said. “The financial aid office emailed a few hours later saying nothing was in fact changing.”
The changes will take place for the incoming classes.
“So many students were freaking out. That's quite a misunderstanding,” she said.
Jensen has learned lessons from the experience.
“It has definitely made me take stock of everything the university has provided for me as a student but also the fact that it's not permanent,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to have these scholarships but theoretically at any moment they can disappear. I'm a lot more conscious of the fact that you have to be conservative with whatever you spend. This could be suddenly my last fall scholarship.”
As a chemistry major and pre-med, Jensen said she, like many others, have extra requirements over the 120 credits the scholarship will cover.
“It's unfortunate the policy would apply to the incoming freshmen,” she said. “The decision has its pros and cons.”