Alumni grant cut back because of budget reductions

Shawntaye Hopkins

The sun was shining – it always does.

Carrie Halcomb’s family would load their car with luggage and prepare for an 11 hour road trip when she was growing up.

They’d drive more than 600 miles.

Families escaping cold weather and seeking the sign welcoming them into the Sunshine State would pass the Halcombs on the opposite side of the interstate.

Halcomb, a junior from Hernando, Fla., didn’t care if her friends laughed. Her family spent several holiday breaks and summer vacations in Bowling Green.

Halcomb’s parents graduated from Western in the late 1970s before moving to Florida. They often come back to Bowling Green to visit friends.

“I just really wanted to come to Western,” Halcomb said. “I love Bowling Green. I love the area.”

Students, such as Halcomb, who receive a university-funded alumni grant that allows them to pay in-state tuition at Western are beginning to feel the effects of recent budget cuts.

Alumni grant recipients will pay in-state tuition plus 25 percent beginning next semester.

The alumni grant change is part of Western’s budget reduction plan approved in February by the Board of Regents.

Halcomb said the grant made it possible for her to attend college at her parents’ alma mater. She had a prepaid college program that would have allowed her to go to any Florida college for free.

The alumni grant is for students who have a parent, grandparent or step-parent who received a degree or completed a certified program at Western.

The grant will now offer the same program given to students in the Tuition Incentive Program.

Michael Sirles, a junior from Joelton, Tenn., said he is eligible for the TIP and feels like he is simply losing the grant.

“It’s like a double slap in the face for me,” Sirles said.

Halcomb said she didn’t know about the grant change until her mother recieved a letter in Florida on Saturday.

She quickly found the name of Donald Smith, the executive director of Western’s Alumni Association.

“As soon as my classes got done Monday morning, I was in Mr. Smith’s office wanting answers,” she said.

She got them.

“You have to look at the bigger picture,” Smith told the Herald. “The university had a $5.6 million budget cut that had to be met.”

The change will save Western $80,000.

Halcomb said she would alsolike to address Western’s administrators.

“My main thing is to let them see that we are not just numbers,” she said.

There are 129 students receiving the grant.

Alumni association officials suggested the change only apply to incoming freshmen, but administrators could not do that and meet the budget cut, Smith said.

“It would be one thing to come in as a freshman knowing how this is going to be,” Sirles said. “It’s another thing for this to be sprung on you in the midst of tuition increases.”

President Gary Ransdell said Western will likely have a 10 percent tuition increase for the 2004-05 academic year.

Sirles’ parents graduated from Western in 1969.

Morgan Rink, a junior from Zionsville, Ind., said she didn’t know about Western’s alumni grant until after her freshman year.

Rink received the grant her sophomore and junior year, and she was reimbursed for her freshman year. Rink’s parents graduated from Western in 1974.

Rink said she came to Western prepared to pay out-of-state tuition.

“I understand it, and it doesn’t bother me because I know they have to get the money from somewhere,” Rink said of the change.

Ransdell said the goal of the budget reduction plan was to make Western more efficient.

“It’s still a significant discount,” he said.

Students who receive the alumni grant remain eligible for it as long as they maintain a 2.2 grade point average.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]