Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the Presidential Fellows Program was a need-based scholarship. This has been corrected to say the Presidential Fellows Program does not have a need-based component.
This school year, 14% of Miami University students are Pell Grant eligible, less than half of eligible college students in Ohio.
In 2021, out of the 13 non-specialized public universities in Ohio, Miami had the lowest percentage of Pell Grant students with 11%, followed by the University of Cincinnati with 17% and The Ohio State University with 20%.
According to The Education Data Initiative, Pell Grant eligibility is determined by expected family contribution and dependency status of the student. A total of 51% of Pell Grants go to students whose families earn less than $20,000 per year, and 37% go to students whose families earn between $20,001 and $50,000 per year.
Student Body President Nyah Smith is a Pell Grant-eligible student and recipient of the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship. Smith said affordability was one of her biggest reasons for ending up at Miami.
“Not only was Miami a dream school for me, but it then became a reality based off of the scholarships and accessibility to resources that I was able to access not just at Miami but also outside scholarships as well,” Smith said.
Venus Harvey, a junior political science major, said affordability was also a large reason she ended up at Miami. After participating in the Bridges Program the summer before her senior year of high school, Harvey kept Miami in mind.
“I initially was going to go to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland,” Harvey said. “I eventually settled on Miami because I thought they would be my most affordable option.”
Brad Bundy, vice president of University Advancement, says one of the most popular ways that alumni make an impact on Miami is to provide scholarships support for students.
“We're very grateful to [alumni] not only in terms of allowing them to have an impact, but also for our students, many of whom would not be able to be here if it were not for that money and that support,” Bundy said.
Scholarship gifts are either endowed or expendable. Expendable gifts are used each year, while endowed gifts are put into an account that grows over the years before being designated. Bundy says Miami has been encouraging donors to endow scholarships.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Donors specify attributes students must meet in order to be eligible for their specific scholarship funds, Bundy says.
“In almost every single instance, a donor will decide whether they want to give merit-based scholarships support or need-based scholarships support … or they can do a combination of both,” Bundy said. “In that decision, what [alumni are] saying is we really want to help Miami recruit the best and the brightest across the country.”
Bundy said many of Miami’s largest scholarships are need-based.
“If it were not for donors, many of Miami's finest students may never have come here,” Bundy said. “So that's one of the reasons why I have committed to this profession and working with this part of the university.”
The Presidential Fellows Program is not a need-based scholarship but provides full tuition, fees, housing, food and a one-time stipend.
The Miami campaign “For Love. For Honor. For Those Who Will” is focused on raising money in four cornerstones, the first being scholarships. The campaign’s goal is to raise $450 million for need-based scholarships. Bundy says that over $400 million has been raised so far in this area.
Two larger recent Miami alumni gifts include from Dave Dafoe ’84 in 2018 and John Metz ’57 in 2022. Dafoe gifted $30.1 million dollars to the College of Arts and Science to provide funding for high-need scholarships.
Metz and his husband Ali Khan committed to a gift of $46 million upon their passing to provide scholarships for students who are Pell Grant eligible. The gift from Metz and Khan is the largest individual gift Miami has ever received.
After arriving at Miami, Harvey said she was jarred by the wealth of Miami students.
“I was very shocked by how wealthy a lot of the students are,” Harvey said. “But also [by] how that wealth is stored and expressed on campus both by students and by Miami.”
August Ogunnowo, secretary for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Miami’s Associated Student Government, feels that socioeconomic diversity is not a form of diversity often spoken about at Miami. Ogunnowo said because there are not a lot of Pell Grant-eligible students at Miami, it is even harder to start a conversation on socioeconomic differences.
“I come from a family with a single mom and a working income, and I sometimes struggle with money,” Ogunnowo said. “Because we don't really talk about it, it's not something that I even think I have to talk about because I didn't even know or see that space and opportunity to even be able to talk about it.”
Harvey said she often feels that many at Miami don’t understand that not all students come from affluent backgrounds.
“[Sometimes] professors say, ‘No, you have to get a physical copy of the textbook,’ when the physical copy is going to be twice as expensive as a digital copy,” Harvey said. “I feel like a lot of times that's something that is done without consideration for people who are just not going to be able to afford those sorts of things.”
Smith said that many of her initiatives with Student Body Vice President Jules Jefferson have centered around Miami becoming more accessible for Pell Grant-eligible students.
The two hope to offer students who receive a parking ticket from Miami an alternative way to pay through community service. Smith said that Jefferson has been busy in several meetings over the past few weeks to make this option available.
“For a Pell Grant-eligible student, or even just a student in general, who is navigating going to school and a job, that [$75 is] a lot of money in this point of life,” Nyah said. “Especially something that you may not have been expecting, and things happen.”
Harvey said she has had communication difficulties with OneStop, which has caused problems deciphering costs and financial aid. She said it’s especially challenging as a first-generation student because her family doesn’t have experience with college and understanding different types of aid.
“I've sometimes had my scholarships reduced without any sort of warning or being told or anything like that,” Harvey said. “I feel like they are really hard to navigate, especially as a student who doesn't have familial experience with college or financial aid and that sort of thing.”
Smith said Miami does have many helpful resources, but the challenge is educating students what those resources are and where to find them as well as having more Pell Grant-eligible students at Miami to create community and representation.
“When there are more students who share identities with you, it allows you to have a bigger community to lean on and a better access to see I'm not doing this alone,” Smith said. “Representation shows people that if they look like me, if they share the same identities and the same background, then I can do it too.”