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ASPIRE Grant to Give $1,500 Scholarships to Students Taking Engaged Learning Courses

Courtesy of Andrew McAllisterSpeaker of the Senate Maddie Drescher (front left), President Kathleen Meis (front center), Vice President Mario Guerrero (front right) and Senators Andrew McAllister (back left) and Sophie Yano (back right) pose while signing the legislation.

Loyola created a grant that will provide tuition assistance to students completing requirements outside of the classroom starting in fall 2020, according to university officials.

The All Students Prosper If Resources Exist (ASPIRE) grant was created by the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) in accordance with the Center for Engaged Learning (CEL) and the Office of Financial Aid. It will be given out as $1,500 scholarships for financially in-need students completing the engaged learning requirement.

Students can fulfill the engaged learning requirement through internships, research opportunities, service-based work and public performance, according to CEL Executive Director Patrick Green.

This grant will be distributed as a $1,500 scholarship to six students in both the fall and spring semesters. In the summer semester, eight students will receive this scholarship, according to Green. The application will be open from April 20 to Aug. 28 and will be on CEL’s website, according to Green. 

The ASPIRE grant is meant to “help financially in-need students complete university-mandated engaged learning requirements by lessening the financial burden of these unpaid and low-paid opportunities,” according to the SGLC’s ASPIRE page.

The grant was proposed by SGLC senators Andrew McAllister and Sophie Yano. The senators surveyed 137 Loyola students while creating the proposal in 2019. Everyone they surveyed supported this grant, with many students saying this grant would’ve helped them personally, according to Yano. One of the students who said this could’ve helped them personally was psychology major MiaMaria Heredia.

“I worked two to three jobs my entire college career in order to support myself,” Heredia wrote in the ASPIRE survey. “With this grant, I could have gained experience in field of psychology that I unfortunately won’t be able to gain before I graduate.”

The grant will cover every unpaid engaged learning opportunity, except for service-based learning since that learning is volunteer work and is meant to be unpaid, according to Green. 

Students often work for professional organizations without pay, according to the CEL’s annual impact report. This presents an extra financial challenge to many students who need to work paid jobs in order to afford tuition and living expenses, according to Yano.

“We wanted to make sure that no student had to turn down a career opportunity due to financial restrictions,” Yano said.

The grant was approved in November to last for three years as a temporary program. Its effectiveness will be evaluated after three years. This grant was approved by then-acting Provost Margaret Callahan — after gaining support from numerous Loyola administrators and student organizations. 

Depending on how the program goes, the university will allocate $30,000 each year to the program, according to Green. The money will come from Loyola’s unrestricted scholarship fund and won’t use any tuition dollars, according to Tobyn Friar, the director of the Financial Aid Office. That fund consists of donations from individuals and other groups, such as corporations or non-profits, which the university can spend that money however it sees fit, according to Friar.  

The application won’t consider students based on their families’ financial standing within the university. Students will be considered based on their personal finances, and the application will have a testimonial section where students can explain why they deserve a part of this grant, Green said.

More scholarships will be given out in the summer semester since Loyola’s yearly tuition doesn’t cover summer classes, according to McAllister. This added-on tuition has kept students such as Collin Lorentzen from participating in summer engaged learning opportunities. 

“I don’t see the need to take a course over the summer if you can take one during the year and not pay extra,” said Lorentzen, a bioinformatics major.

Lydia Rodgers, a sophomore psychology major, who hasn’t yet completed the engaged learning requirement, thinks ASPIRE is a good idea since she worries about finding a paid engaged learning opportunity. 

“I’m a psych major, so I only have two options, [an internship or research work], for engaged learning,” Rodgers said. “I’m screwed if they’re both unpaid.”

Other Illinois and Jesuit universities have programs similar to ASPIRE, including the University of Chicago and Loyola Marymount University, according to the proposal. Yano and McAllister said these universities’ similar programs influenced Loyola in approving the grant.

“Loyola doesn’t tend to like to be the first to do something,” Yano said. 

“If you can prove to [Loyola] that other Jesuit universities, other Chicago universities … have done this then [the university is] much more willing to give it a try.”

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