It is no secret that the cost of college is rising and student debt is increasing across the country, which is a concern for many prospective students and their families. The University of Mount Union is not alone in combating these challenges as it ushers in a new generation of students. What sets Mount Union apart, however, is its intent on making an exceptional student experience even better, all while making higher education affordable for students of all backgrounds.
Chris Campbell ’19, an international affairs and diplomacy and German double major of Strongsville, Ohio, visited Mount Union three times and fell in love with the campus. However, he could not make his final college choice until he knew if he could afford to pursue his passions at Mount.
“I received a Hartshorn Award, Music Proficiency Scholarship, and UMU Gift Award,” Campbell said. “These scholarships had a great impact on my decision to come to Mount because they made college much more affordable."
The days of tuition alone being the primary focus for the majority of families are over. According to a 2018 study titled, “How Americans Value College” conducted by consumer banking company Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an international market research firm, financial aid awards are the top financial consideration of more than half of families.
“Endowed funds allow us to offer merit scholarships and need-based grants to all traditional undergraduate students,” said Kathleen Thomas, director of student financial aid. “Without donors providing their support, most of our students would not be able to attend Mount Union. We meet with so many families prior to them going through the financial aid process who think a private education is out of the question for them. They are shocked once they receive their financial aid package, which shows an out-of-pocket cost similar to that of a public school.”
These gifts are transformational to the lives of students, as many go from being unable to afford Mount Union to becoming campus leaders who share their impactful stories with future Purple Raiders. Campbell is in his senior year and has held leadership positions in Phi Kappa Tau and Greek Leadership Academy, in addition to serving as a Preview and Raider guide. In becoming more enamored with Mount Union after each visit he made, it makes complete sense that Campbell takes pride in being one of the first student leaders who gets to interact with incoming freshmen.
Avoiding "Sticker Shock"
Sophomore Alejandra Twiss ’21, a geology major of La Ceiba, Honduras, traveled to America in 2015 with the goal of attending college, away from the increasingly declining socioeconomic climate of her home country. Upon making her way stateside, Twiss landed in Louisville, Ohio. She had heard of Mount Union, but the annual price tag left her discouraged, yet not without hope.
“Though I’m a happy Mount Union student now, there was a time that this dream didn’t seem fathomable,” Twiss said. “Yes, I received federal aid, but there’s only so much help the government can provide. It wasn’t that long after that I was notified of my eligibility for a Minority Achievement Award. Since Mount was my preferred school, I worked hard for that interview. When my acceptance letter came in saying I had been awarded that scholarship, my parents were overwhelmed with joy while I just couldn’t stop crying.”
Many families see the total price of attending a higher education institution and experience what is commonly known as “sticker shock.” However, when viewing the net price (total cost after financial aid is applied) of attending an institution like Mount Union, the figures become far more palatable to prospective students and their families.
The average financial aid package, including loans, is more than $26,000 for undergraduate students attending Mount Union. This means average first-year students have nearly 64 percent of their total costs covered before they ever receive their first syllabi, making the cost to attend Mount Union comparable to many state institutions.
Since tuition does not fully cover the actual cost of a student’s education, support for The Mount Union Fund helps bridge the gap, ensuring Mount Union can provide a high-quality education at a price that students and families of all backgrounds can afford year after year.
More specifically, The Mount Union Fund offers flexibility in the budget, as unrestricted gifts can be accepted and quickly returned to our students where the support is needed most. Annual gifts to the Mount Union Fund complement the endowment with immediate support for scholarships and financial aid, academic programming, faculty training, study abroad experiences, technology enhancements, and other critical needs as they arise.
Twiss plans to attend graduate school in the near future and specialize in sustainability, with hopes of eventually working for a nonprofit organization in a less developed country, like Honduras. Her major and extracurricular interests are preparing her to work on conservation projects, paired with newer sustainable practices, to better improve the lives of people in those countries.
President’s Rescue Fund
At the end of 2016, alumni, with assistance from the Offices of Advancement, Enrollment Management, and the President, established the President’s Rescue Fund. The purpose of the fund is to help students remain at Mount Union and complete their degrees if they are in dire financial need.
Rory Juhn ’17, a human resource management graduate of Fairview Park, Ohio, was one of the first recipients of President’s Rescue Fund support. Through a generous donation from Charles Unger ’49, Juhn’s remaining tuition balance was paid in full, and he was able to graduate.
“Toward the end of my final, toughest, and most stressful semester at Mount Union, an amazingly generous alumnus decided to pay off the remaining amount of my balance,” Juhn wrote in a letter to the Office of University Advancement. “This random act of kindness is so much more than just paying off an overdue balance. It shows that the Purple Raider Nation is one giant family regardless of what year you graduate, sport you play, or anything else.”
Unger and late trustee Dr. E. Karl Schneider ’66 were instrumental in the creation of the fund, which is a unique endeavor not found at many institutions. In 2016, Schneider challenged his peers in the Class of 1966 to donate to the fund, with the promise that he and his wife, Lisa, would match every dollar up to $25,000. Contributions like these are how the fund keeps a Mount Union education within reach for some hardworking students and their families, as some just need a little extra financial help that enables them to cross the finish line and reach graduation.
“The core of a Mount Union education—value, quality, affordability, excellence, and leadership—is exemplified in our outstanding alumni who inspire our current students and impact their communities and the larger world every day,” said Dick Merriman, president of Mount Union.
Mount Union senior Chris Tucker ’19, a theatre major of Delaware, Ohio, came to Mount Union from more than two hours away because he heard about the success of the theatre program. Even though the faculty and campus made an impression on him, it was the financial assistance he received that made his commitment that much easier.
“Mount Union seemed to be way more invested in my coming here than the other schools to which I applied,” said Tucker. “While other universities really tried to get me to apply to their schools, Mount was the only one that truly went the extra mile by going above and beyond to help with financial needs.”
Scholarships are an important part of Mount Union’s commitment to creating a cost-effective collegiate experience, and they are becoming increasingly necessary for the average student at the University. Nearly one-third of Mount Union students are eligible for the federal Pell Grant, which is allocated to students with high financial need, and more than a quarter are first-generation college students. Middle-income families who receive no federal grants feel especially squeezed financially.
Helping these students attend Mount Union cannot be done without current and endowed scholarships. These not only help the students, but it helps keep the University financially stable and successful. At a time when competitor institutions are struggling to keep doors open, Mount Union has maintained a balanced budget for an incredible 64 years in a row.
“At Mount Union, we have prided ourselves on our fiscal stability and plan to ‘live within our means’ every year,” said Patrick Heddleston ’86, vice president for business affairs at the University. “To remain competitive, we must offer a robust financial aid package, which impacts our ability to continue our long streak of balanced budgets. Therefore, assistance from alumni and friends is critical not only to help students afford their collegiate education, but to also help Mount Union maintain its fiscal stability into the future.”
The entire Mount Union community is devoted to making sure current and future students can afford the high-quality academics and experiences offered by Mount Union. There are many ways alumni and friends give back, but they all have the same goal of student success in mind.