Offering scholarships to families with financial need can be a great way to expand the accessibility of your program to all families in your community. Or, for schools where recruiting volunteers to help with the program is a challenge, scholarships can be an effective way to incent parents to help out.
But there are many aspects of offering scholarships that need to be well-managed to ensure equitable access and appropriate use of this often rare commodity. Below we share some ideas that may be of help in your program as you work to offer scholarships fairly and effectively.
- PTA/PTO-Funded. Many PTAs and PTOs offer their own scholarships. Some raise money by asking all participants in the program to help fund a scholarship fund by charging a participation fee for the program or by providing the opportunity for families to make a monetary contribution when they register for classes. Others are fortunate enough to live in a community where the existing PTA/PTO budget can cover a certain number of scholarships each session. Creating internally-funded scholarships gives you the most flexibility in terms of awarding scholarships to families.
- Provider-Funded. More and more Providers are willing and able to offer a Provider-funded scholarship once a class reaches its minimum paid enrollment requirement. However, not every Provider is able to honor this request; between staffing, supplies, insurance, basic operating costs, and being asked to run classes below their minimums, Providers are often trying to just make ends meet. But, many will happily contribute a scholarship when able.
- Priority Registration. Part of the decision process about scholarships needs to include when scholarship recipients will be allowed to register. Some schools give scholarship recipients pre-registration, ensuring they can register for their given class even if it is one that tends to fill up quickly. Others see the scholarship alone as enough of an advantage and have the recipients take their chances equally with the rest of the community in terms of whether or not they can get into a class. And still others wait to see if a class meets its minimum or not before agreeing to enroll a scholarship recipient. There are advantages and disadvantages to the timing of registering scholarship students no matter which path you choose. Be sure to discuss which makes the most sense and seems most appropriate for your community.
- Full or partial scholarships. As Enrichment Coordinators field an increasing number of requests for scholarships at many schools, some are getting creative with how to stretch those dollars. For example, a Provider may agree to offer one full scholarship for its class. The PTA/PTO could opt to give out two 50% scholarships for that class instead of one 100% scholarship, thus making the class accessible to two families instead of one. Other PTAs/PTOs may offer a self-funded discount (for example, 20%) to some while awarding full scholarships to those who need them most.
- One family, multiple requests. Frequently, it is the same families at the school who request financial assistance. Each PTA/PTO needs to decide what they are comfortable with in terms of how many times per year a student can receive a scholarship, how many classes per session a scholarship student can take, and how many scholarships one family with multiple children can receive per session. Thinking through these questions in advance and creating a scholarship policy that outlines these issues can make the entire process much smoother and less stressful for everyone.
For those communities who do not have a significant level of financial need among their families, EM urges you to not request Provider-funded scholarships if possible. By forgoing a scholarship request at your school, you make it easier for the Provider to either fund a scholarship at a less affluent school, or to run a class below its minimum at a school that is struggling to establish its program.
But as every community may have some families who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of these programs, figuring out effective and equitable ways to get scholarships to the right students is a key aspect to expanding the reach of your program to all the students in your school.