Advancements in Aid: Scholarships and how they shape STA

As STA improves and expands its educational opportunities, scholarships are growing with it.

April 24, 2019

Near the end of Maureen Burns, Audrey Giersch and Liv Davidson’s junior year, they walked into President Nan Bone’s office with a plan. With the help of Burns’s mom, they had made a presentation outlining a possible new scholarship that would pay in full for one girl to attend STA. The presentation covered everything from how the tuition would be paid to how the student would get to school every morning.

Although Burns believes that the financial aid currently provided by the school is beneficial to many, she wanted to give an opportunity to someone who would require all expenses to be paid in order to attend STA. Burns, Giersch and Davison first got the idea for this scholarship a couple of months before they presented it to the administration.

“It was one of those days where we just felt super fortunate to be able to go here,” Burns said. “We wanted to acknowledge the fact that it is impossible for some people to even dream about going to a school like this. Our goal was to target the scholarship for someone with that background where even if she were to get a $5,000 scholarship, she still could not afford it.”

Unfortunately, Burns’s scholarship did not work out due to a lack of time and communication. She still believes that a scholarship similar to the one she tried to establish should be provided.

“I think as many people as we can get should be able to come here,” Burns said. “There’s no denying that this is a fantastic education and we have opportunities some people don’t even dream of.”

Principal of student affairs Liz Baker is responsible for gathering scholarship applications from students and determining who is eligible for which scholarships. As someone who is crucial in the process of distributing scholarships and aid, Baker helps provide the opportunities that Burns talked about.

“Based on our annual report, we give almost 50% of the students in the school some kind of a scholarship or financial aid,” Baker said. “So there’s obviously need. I think the benefit of scholarships is that it affords people who may not otherwise choose St. Teresa’s — it gives them the opportunity to be a part of the student body.”

Baker is known by many as the person to talk to about emergencies with scholarships and financial aid. She thinks of herself as a student advocate for students in these circumstances.

“You know, there are always things that happen that are emergencies, and we try to be compassionate and accommodating for that as well,” Baker said.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 91% of American students attend public schools where scholarships are not necessary. Because of this, scholarships and aid at the high school level are not as recognized or well funded as they are in colleges.

According to Baker, as the school continues to grow and more donations are received, scholarships become larger.

“Probably from the time [Nan Bone] has gotten here, it has grown from 50 scholarships to 225,” Baker said. “So it’s grown a lot because of her mission and vision and the school board and the administration saying, ‘We need to grow the endowment so that more kids are able to come.’”

According to Baker, another factor limiting the funding of scholarships at the school is STA graduates are all female. Many of them feel unable to donate to their school due to social stigma around women donating to their places of education.

“Women are not used to making donations,” Baker said. “That’s something that we really work on. And we do have wonderful women donors, but I think there is still a stigma about, you know, that when you’re in a family, you donate to the man’s university instead of the woman’s.”

Advancement director Vanessa Herring works with a team of fundraisers to raise money for STA, a large portion of which goes towards scholarships and financial aid. She previously worked in fundraising at the University of Missouri-Columbia but found it easier at the high school level as STA alumnae often have a stronger affinity to their high school.  

“Our class of 1950, those women still get together every Tuesday for coffee,” Herring said. “They’ve had 50 years of other life experiences and it’s their STA class that means the most to them. And I can say that that certainly is not true when you go to a university.”

Herring thinks this makes them more inclined to give money to St. Teresa’s in order to give someone the same good experience they had.

“People I think, have very fond memories,” Herring said. “I think they realize what St. Teresa’s did in high school to prep them for college and beyond. I think as you get further and further away from St. Teresa’s, as a graduate, the more you come to realize how your St. Teresa’s education and connections and sisterhood set you apart from other people.”

Both Baker and Herring believe that STA’s scholarships and financial aid have room for improvement.

“We’re always thinking, with strategic planning, ‘What are better ways of generating income? What are ways of finding people with need that would benefit from a college prep education too?’” Baker said. “So we’re working on that. I think that’s the next on the horizon.”

Herring thinks that bigger scholarships like the one Burns tried to establish are especially important.

“I think that [full ride scholarships] are an area we could really improve in,” Herring said. “Donors and alumni, alumni especially say ‘Gosh, I loved my time at STA. I want every girl to have it.’ And the only way we can make every girl have it is if we have more funds available.”

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