Academic Scholarships Unlock Opportunities
Academic Scholarships Unlock Opportunities
by Robyn Ross
Paying it forward: financial aid helps defray the cost of college education
The scene in front of Ali Mumbach (B.S. ’19) was lifted from a postcard. The sky above the Pacific Ocean blazed with orange light that faded slowly to blue as the sun sank beneath the horizon. A row of fishing boats bobbed in the harbor, and pelicans skimmed the darkening water.
Sitting on the beach in El Jobo, in northwestern Costa Rica, Mumbach closed her eyes. Last night, not far from here, she had held a baby sea turtle in the palm of her hand. The newly hatched turtles are a delicacy for gulls, foxes, and alligators — as well as poachers — so she and the other students in her conservation and marine biology class carried them to the water in a bucket to help them avoid the predators. That morning the class captured and measured sea turtles and stingrays to help their professor with his research. Now that the day was over, everyone else had gone to shower before dinner. Mumbach stayed on the beach, watching the light fade from the sky and marveling that she was there to see it.
Back in Houston, where she’d grown up, money was tight. Mumbach didn’t know until her last year of high school that she would have qualified for reduced-price meals at school. She rode the bus or carpooled until her senior year. She worked long hours at a restaurant that summer to save up for a 22-year-old Toyota Camry. At Texas State University, she didn’t have to pay tuition or living expenses because she’d been chosen as one of about a dozen Terry Foundation scholars in her class — an opportunity that even included the chance to study abroad.
As the sun set, “I was just sitting in gratitude and awe that I got to be in that place at that moment because I’d been blessed by that scholarship in too many ways to count,” she remembers. Mumbach graduated with a degree in applied sociology and a minor in journalism.
Each year, Texas State awards hundreds of scholarships to students like Mumbach who show academic promise, financial need, or both. The Houston-based Terry Foundation has partnered with Texas State to award scholarships since 2004.
To keep college affordable, Texas State disburses about $370 million in financial aid to students each year. Nearly three-quarters of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, including academic scholarships.
The program provides a four-year full scholarship for between 12 and 17 incoming freshmen each year and covers 65% of the cost of attendance for nine to 12 transfer students. Recipients are selected based on their academic record and leadership accomplishments, as well as financial need. The process includes a holistic review by a committee of Texas State faculty and staff, and an interview with the Terry Foundation.
More than a third of the university’s students qualify for federal Pell Grants, which are available only to students who come from low-income families. To keep college affordable, Texas State disburses about $370 million in financial aid to students each year. Nearly three-quarters of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, including academic scholarships.
“As students are thinking about coming to college, there’s a real concern about how they will finance and pay for their college experience, and what the benefits of that college education will be once they’re done,” says Dr. Christopher Murr, director of Financial Aid and Scholarships. “So, an important role we have is helping students and their families understand the resources that are available to help defray those educational costs.”
One of the largest of those resources is Texas State’s Assured Scholarship program, which awards $1,500 to $9,500 annually to students who are ranked in the top 30% of their class and post strong scores on the SAT or ACT. Students are automatically considered for these awards when they apply for admission and can even estimate their award by checking the criteria posted online.
For competitive scholarships — awards funded by endowments managed by Financial Aid and Scholarships — students fill out a separate application through the Bobcat Online Scholarship System (BOSS). Many competitive scholarships are specific to individual academic programs, such as the McCoy Scholarship of Excellence for outstanding business students and the Ingram Engineering Technology Scholarship for an academically strong student in that major. These awards can be combined with Assured Scholarships to cover a significant percentage of Texas State’s cost of attendance.
Terry Scholars are automatically accepted to the Honors College, and the freshmen live in the same residence hall. The scholars pitch in on volunteer projects together at places such as the San Marcos Housing Authority’s after-school program and local food banks.
New Terry Scholars attend a fall orientation, where they meet their upperclassman counterparts, and they also attend a fall banquet and a spring picnic to bid farewell to the seniors. After graduation, a Terry alumni network helps scholars job-shadow or connect with mentors in their chosen career.
“Once you’re a Terry, you are part of the Terry family for life,” says Stephanie Lopez, assistant director, Financial Aid and Scholarships, whose office works with the Honors College to manage the Terry program. “While the students are grateful for the funds, it’s not just the money — it’s a whole support system.”
When Mumbach registered for classes her freshman year, she chose a sociology class to fill a general education requirement. The course changed her life — starting the first day, when her professor described sociology as “the unveiling of truth.” For Mumbach, that truth wasn’t always comforting, as she learned about the structural barriers that keep the American dream out of reach for some populations. “We’re taught in the younger years that, ‘You work as hard as you can, and then you can be rich,’ but that’s just not true for a lot of people,” she says.
However, Mumbach, who plans to pursue public policy, journalism, or academia after two years of missionary work, says the Terry Scholarship changed all that. “It’s making exceptions to the rule that you’re going to stay in the socioeconomic status you were born in,” she says. “It’s giving people access to education who didn’t have that access, and we’re going to graduate debt free. The Terry Scholarship changed my life. It changes everyone’s lives.” ✪
The identical twins from Austin are both junior industrial engineering majors, play varsity soccer for the conference-champion women’s soccer team, and plan to pursue careers in logistics and supply chain management. Both received the President’s Honor Scholarship, Ingram Engineering Scholarship, and a scholarship through the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. The awards meant the Strebers didn’t have to take out student loans or work during the school year — which would have been difficult to manage around playing soccer. “Our parents aren’t really able to help pay for college,” Holly says, “so the scholarships took a big burden off our shoulders.”
Growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Antonia Lubrano wanted to attend college someplace far from home but still within driving distance. “When I visited Texas State, it just clicked,” she remembers. “It felt like home, and I loved that we were close to Austin and San Antonio.”
In her first year of college, the pre-nursing major took honors classes, joined the club swim team and went on the Bobcat Awakening retreat through Our Lady of Wisdom University Parish. She plans to become a nurse practitioner and work in pediatric settings.
Lubrano, a sophomore, received the University Scholars Health Professions Scholarship and the President’s Honor Scholarship, which qualified her to pay in-state tuition. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to Texas State if I hadn’t gotten that scholarship to help waive the out-of-state fees,” she says.
In fall 2018, Terry Scholar Cecilio López Rosales transferred from the Lamar Institute of Technology. Today he is a Texas State junior majoring in sociology and Spanish.
López Rosales was just 10 years old when his family came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico. The middle child of five, he says “it is especially challenging” to be the first in his family to attend college.
This July, he participated in a study abroad program to Spain. After graduating from Texas State, López Rosales plans to attend graduate school for Latino studies or communications. He would like to work at a university.
“Being a Terry Scholar has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. It has been through my service to my communities that I was given this opportunity. Therefore, as a Terry, I have to continue those same principles and values that got me here. As a Terry, I am at Texas State to serve, not to be served,” López Rosales says.