By Celeste Rojas
Scholarship displacement impacts students who depend on financial aid like me. Scholarship displacement is the term used to describe the situation when a student reports an external scholarship awarded to them to their university, and their original financial aid award gets reduced because of the additional scholarship, usually by the same amount of the scholarship.For this reason, I always had to think critically about applying to private scholarships or external aid for college. The best scholarship opportunities for me were those that either gave me the money directly or would provide me with a stipend. Scholarships that would be sent directly to the financial aid office were unfavorable because I knew that UC Berkeley would automatically reduce my gift aid since I was receiving extra money. There were instances where they would increase my loan offers to fill in for any gaps in my financial aid package.
In 2019, I was in an accident that caused me to get 15 stitches across the left side of my face. I reported it to UC Berkeley since I was unable to attend class and participate. To help me out they gave me $500 dollars for a hotel so my mom can take care of me. However, I didn’t know they were going to reduce my financial aid package because of those $500 dollars.
Another experience I had with award displacement was when the Cal Alumni Association, part of UC Berkeley, gave me aid through an emergency fund. During the pandemic, the Cal Alumni Association was generous enough to launch an emergency fund for students experiencing pandemic-related concerns like housing, food insecurity, or medical bills. I applied to the fund and later received about 10 Visa gift cards in the mail that amounted to my award. I was shocked they gave me Visa gift cards and asked why I couldn’t receive it all in one check to make it easier for me to retrieve the funds through my bank. They notified me that UC Berkeley would consider the check as financial aid, which would then decrease my financial aid package.
Award displacement affects all students, especially low-income students who aspire to apply to as many scholarships as possible to help with all the costs related to going to college. It’s unfortunate that institutions like UC Berkeley reduce aid amounts because scholarships can give more money to students.