Minimum GPA required to maintain merit-based scholarship reduced


Graphic by Quinn Butterfield.

In the 2018-2019 school year, 90 percent of full-time Trinity students received merit-aid scholarship. In the past, these students would lose this merit aid if their GPAs fell below a 2.5. That’s about to change.

Student Financial Services has reduced the GPA requirement for the renewal of merit scholarships to the standard of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), effective immediately.

According to Christina Pikla, director of Financial Aid, universities that participate in the Federal Student Aid program are required to have a SAP, and for Trinity, that standard is a 2.0 cumulative GPA with at least 75 percent completion of attempted courses.

“We want to create the ability for students to be successful and not have perceived barriers in order to fully engage and receive the opportunities that exist at Trinity without preventing themselves from doing so,” Pikla said.

The SAP is the baseline for essentially all sources of funding aside from state-mandated grants, according to Pikla.

“It’s preemptive in that we want to take that barrier, that stress away,” Pikla said. “If you’re ability to be here is based on the financial support you’re receiving, and that could be in jeopardy, it could add a layer of stress that, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t need to be there.”

This change will not affect recipients of the Trinity Tower Scholarship or Semmes Distinguished Scholarship in Science, which both require the maintenance of a 3.0 cumulative GPA.

“Both of those scholarships are full-tuition scholarships, and in order to have been considered for those scholarships, there was an additional component, application, evaluative process that was above and beyond, and because of the nature of the prestige of the scholarship and the fact that it does cover every dollar of tuition for those students, that’s remaining at a higher GPA standard,” Pikla said.

The change does not affect the merit-based scholarships of athletes or international students. Pikla explained that athletes and international students receive aid just as other Trinity students do. In terms of merit-based aid, however, their level of enrollment is measured against the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s regulations or visa requirements, respectively, which require a certain level of enrollment.

According to Eric Maloof, vice president for Enrollment Management, this policy change is one of many to come.

“We’re in a continuous cycle right now of reviewing and refining our financial aid policies that provide a seamless path to graduation for our students, and we felt like this policy, in particular, was providing an unnecessary obstacle,” Maloof said.

Maloof explained that this change is in line with Trinity’s peer institutions and that the main goal of this change is to reduce students’ anxieties around financial aid.

“This is a more student-centric approach toward renewal of financial aid in general,” Maloof said. “The last thing that the institution wants for our students to be worried about is losing their financial aid, whether that be merit-based scholarship or need-based aid, and we think this policy is a very positive step in the right direction to help quell that anxiety.”

This change will cost the university money, but Maloof is hopeful that the potential increases in retention and graduation rates will offset some of those costs. Plus, Maloof sees this change as beneficial to all involved, including students’ families and academic advisers.

“We’re trying to revise policies to be clear and transparent to our audience,” Maloof said. “This is an easier policy to follow. Now everybody knows that to make satisfactory academic process here and to keep your need-based aid and merit scholarship, you need a 2.0.”

This change aims to increase retention at Trinity, and according to advising coordinator Lapétra Bowman, the new policy will be successful in that goal.

“This student-centered change in policy is substantial as it provides students a bit more breathing room,” Bowman wrote in an email. “Struggling students are, in essence, given more time and space to make the necessary academic [or] personal shifts to change the trajectory of their academic journey without the added pressure of losing financial aid and support.”

Bowman sees this change as an example of Trinity’s emphasis on student discovery.

“Students should view this as an opportunity for recalibrating their academic [or] personal lens during a difficult time without the added pressure of losing their financial aid,” Bowman wrote. “This is also an opportunity for us as a campus to support our students during difficult times as we acknowledge that pain mountains and obstacles are not so quickly resolved and not so easily traveled — personal healing and academic discover [and] recovery take time and space.”

Because this change will be effective immediately, Student Financial Services will review students’ grades at the end of this semester. However, in the future, this evaluation will happen on an annual basis in the spring.