Opening Doors to Higher Education

By Autumn Cafiero Giusti ’00

Scholarships help talented students achieve success while allowing the university to recruit and retain diverse classes.

This fall, Anthony Sedlak ’12 (accounting) donned a suit and entered the corporate halls of New Orleans’ One Shell Square, where he shares elevator rides and office space with some of the city’s most successful professionals. A newly minted Loyola University New Orleans graduate, Sedlak commands a great starting salary as an accountant for the global firm of Ernst & Young.

It’s a reality Sedlak never envisioned three years ago.

In 2009, he had six cents in his bank account and a $20 bill to share with his single mother. Divorce had torn apart his family, the financial crisis robbed his parents of steady income, and he and his mother lost their house in suburban Chicago, Ill., to foreclosure. Around the same time, Sedlak’s mother developed schizophrenia, and he had to place her in a mental health facility.

At the time, Sedlak had just graduated from a two-year community college, and his future was riding on the outcome of his scholarship application to Loyola, the only school where he had applied. When the university came through with a package of scholarships and need-based grants, Sedlak set out to chart a new life for himself.

“If it hadn’t been for those scholarships, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Loyola,” he says, “And I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Recruiting and retaining diverse and talented classes of students like Sedlak is a fundamental part of Loyola’s mission, and scholarships allow the university to do that, says Salvadore Liberto, vice president for Enrollment Management and associate provost. That’s why scholarship fundraising and awareness continues to be a major priority for the university.

“Part of our mission is to make sure that any student who qualifies for this education has the opportunity to participate in it,” notes Liberto.

AUDIT: LOYOLA AMONG MOST GIVING

Loyola is among the most generous of the Catholic, Jesuit institutions in the U.S. when it comes to funding students. In fact, 84 percent of students at Loyola receive some form of scholarship or financial aid.

According to a 2011 audit of Jesuit universities, Loyola provided the second-highest percentage of financial aid among 17 of its peers, with the university accounting for 38.1 percent of students’ net tuition. Of the $107.9 million in tuition and fees Loyola charged students in 2011, the university provided $41.1 million in financial aid.

In addition, Loyola was recognized for the first time by U.S. News & World Report 2013 as being among the top five Regional Universities of the South with students who owe the least amount of debt upon graduation, citing an average debt of $12,597.

“We are clearly among the most committed private institutions in the country when it comes to giving deserving students a shot through funding. We can be very proud of that,” Liberto says.

Like most universities, Loyola provides a host of institutional scholarships, which cover some or all of a student’s tuition and are awarded to students based on their academic records and test scores. And for some students, there are scholarships for athletic abilities or a relation to a Loyola alumnus/na. In addition to scholarships, the university offers need-based grants, which are available to students who demonstrate substantial financial need. Grants and scholarships are usually awarded based on financial need, merit, or a combination of both.

“Especially in the case of a high-need, first-generation college student, we have the ability to change the fortune of an entire family by offering the funding that makes it possible for the student to graduate,” Liberto says.

Providing more need-based student aid is a significant goal for the university, says the Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D., university president. Raising more money for endowments and scholarships means opening more doors for potential students in need.

“I want to make sure I do everything I can so that talented students can come here if they want to come here,” Wildes says.

Merit scholarships are the most widely received institutional scholarships for first-year and transfer students, and there is a range of these awards. The Ignatian Scholarship for Academic Excellence covers full tuition, housing, and fees for all four years. The university awards 10 of these scholarships a year. Partial-tuition scholarships range from $2,000 to $20,000 annually. Talent-based scholarships are also available in music, theatre arts, and visual arts. There are also about 100 endowed scholarships available both university-wide and through the Colleges of Business, Humanities and Natural Sciences, Music and Fine Arts, and Social Sciences.

Outside of merit scholarships, full-time students enrolled at Loyola who have a parent, stepparent, or grandparent who graduated from the university can be eligible for up to $5,000 in scholarship money through the Alumni Legacy Scholarship Award. Students must show a documented financial need to be able to receive this award.

Loyola also offers full and partial athletic scholarships for student athletes.

AWARDS AFTER THE FIRST YEAR

In addition to recruiting new students, scholarships also serve to keep them here.

When Sedlak was preparing for his second year at Loyola, he found himself faced with an ethical dilemma. By that time, his father had found a job, which meant that he would qualify for less federal financial aid. Still, money was tight for his family, and paying for his education would more than strain their finances.

Since his parents were divorced, he could name himself as either parent’s dependent on his financial aid paperwork.

“The logical decision is to put the parent who makes the least amount of money. But there’s a little clause in the financial aid that says to choose the parent who gives you the most support,” Sedlak says.

Even though Sedlak believed it made the most sense to submit the financial aid information for his mother, his conscience kept nagging at him.

“In my heart, I felt, ‘Is this really right?’ So morally in my relationship with Christ, I took a little leap of faith and put my dad and chose the higher road.”

That leap of faith rewarded Sedlak. About three weeks later, he received e-mails notifying him that the College of Business selected him to receive two scholarships for which he had never even applied.

“When I saw that, it was just a great way of seeing that when you trust God, He’ll provide,” Sedlak says.

Endowed scholarships like the ones Sedlak received can help alleviate some of the tuition pressure students face. Students can receive many of these scholarships, which include merit-based and need-based awards, anytime during their tenure at Loyola, and often after their first year.

A donor can set up an endowed scholarship with a $25,000 minimum gift. Private contributions of $60,000 toward scholarships for first-generation college students are eligible for a $40,000 match from the Louisiana Board of Regents. Interest generated from the endowed fund provides scholarship assistance each year.

Loyola’s existing scholarship funds have been given by individuals and by groups or families who pool their money, often in memory of someone, says Claire Simno ’71, Ph.D., assistant director of stewardship and donor relations. Gifts to establish scholarship endowments come via single large gifts, pledged gifts paid out over a few years, or through planned gifts such as bequests.

Liberto and his father started an endowed scholarship for English students, in honor of his late mother, Catherine Liberto, M.Ed. ’68, who died of breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 67. Liberto’s mother was a Loyola graduate and an English teacher in New Orleans who loved literature and writing.
“We wanted to be able to memorialize that in some way,” Liberto says.

Family members and friends continue to contribute to the fund, and this year, Loyola will award the scholarship for the first time to a high-achieving, high-need English student.

The reasons donors give are numerous.

“Many are from people just being good citizens. What better way to help someone in need than to educate them,” Simno says.

The donor’s intentions for the scholarship can help determine what type of student will receive it, such as a biology major or an English senior. From there, a selection committee chooses who receives the award. Each year, Loyola holds its Scholarship Dinner, where donors get a chance to meet the scholarship recipients.

“It is really rewarding to see it all take place in front of you,” Simno says.

At this past year’s Scholarship Dinner, Sedlak was the featured speaker. He recounted his touching story and served as an example of the importance of scholarships to students.

AID FOR ATHLETES

In the past decade, Loyola has expanded its scholarship base to include awards for athletes. One of the first recipients of that scholarship was Mario Faranda ’08 (finance).

A native of Peru, Faranda lived in Italy with his parents for a year and a half before moving to the U.S. in November 2001 to attend and play basketball at St. Stanislaus, a residency school for boys in Bay St. Louis, Miss. During his senior year of high school, Faranda suffered a knee injury that threatened his prospects of playing college basketball. By that summer, he had received no athletic scholarships, and he was running out of time to remain in the U.S. He did not have U.S. citizenship, and his parents, of modest means, would have been unable to afford an American university. “So for me, it was basically all or nothing,” Faranda says.

Around the same time, Dr. Michael Giorlando had just started working at Loyola as director of Athletics and Wellness and head men’s basketball coach. At the time, the university was offering its first-ever batch of academic scholarships, and there was only one left.

Giorlando and Faranda’s coach at St. Stanislaus had a mutual friend in the basketball coach at Rummel High School. The Rummel coach relayed Faranda’s story to Giorlando, who faxed the scholarship paperwork to Faranda’s parents in Italy.

Faranda received an athletic scholarship that covered all of his tuition, plus room and board. He showed up to Loyola that fall, sight unseen.

“From that day until the day I graduated, I absolutely loved my experience at Loyola. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,” Faranda says.

Faranda went on to get his master’s degree in finance from Tulane University. He is now in his second year of law school at Tulane.

“For my family, to this day they are so very thankful to Coach Gio. We could have never afforded the tuition at Loyola,” Faranda says.

Loyola has offered four-year, full-tuition scholarships that are renewed on a yearly basis for student-athletes participating in men’s and women’s basketball since fall 2004. Scholarships are awarded to a maximum of 11 women and 10 men and cover tuition, room, and an athletic meal plan, excluding books and fees.

“It’s been significant because it has allowed us to recruit a higher-caliber student athlete and allow us to maintain athletic integrity for the university,” Giorlando says of the scholarships.

In fall 2009, Loyola also started awarding partial scholarships for students participating in other intercollegiate athletic programs, including baseball, volleyball, cross country, and tennis.

Scholarships have allowed Loyola’s basketball teams to better compete with other universities with full athletic scholarships, Giorlando says. Both the men’s and women’s teams improved their performance on the court while maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher, and the women’s team has won conference championships and made the national tournament in recent years.

While coaches at some universities give lip service to academics, Giorlando takes the athletic department’s commitment to education seriously, says Faranda, who graduated with a 3.97 GPA.

“He really did stress the fact that we were students first. And he recruits on that basis,” Faranda says.

EVERY LITTLE BIT

Even small scholarships can alter a student’s destiny. Such was the case for Devante Williams, finance junior.

Williams came to Loyola on an academic scholarship. But after both of his parents were forced to take a pay cut last year, his family struggled to pay the balance of his tuition.

As much as Williams wanted to stay at Loyola, he found himself starting the process to transfer to Louisiana State University. The day before he was supposed to submit the paperwork, he received an unexpected call: Loyola was offering him a $2,000 business scholarship.

“It was just so powerful. The scholarship helped out me and my family significantly. It’s the only reason why I’m still here,” Williams says.

That experience, coupled with the fact that many of his friends were facing the same predicament, motivated Williams to co-found The Coalition, a campus organization that provides programs and support for black male students who struggle to pay for tuition.

Scholarships of $1,000 or $2,000 often make a huge difference in a student’s quality of life, says Laurie Leiva ’03, assistant director of Alumni Relations. Students can use the scholarship to help pay for books, meal plans, or housing.

“A lot of these students were having to work full time and go to school full time. This allows them to cut back a little bit on how much they’re having to work and focus more on academics and some of the activities on campus,” Leiva says.

Leiva works with Loyola’s alumni scholarship committee, which consists of members of different alumni boards who select the Alumni Association’s scholarship recipients. Loyola’s Alumni Association manages two awards each year: the Alumni Association Legacy Scholarship and the Alumni Association Graduation Award. Alumni donations help fund both awards.

The Graduation Award is a $1,000 award given to one graduating student from each college and is applied to their student loan balance. The Legacy Scholarship is an award of up to $5,000 and is distributed every spring to between 15 and 30 enrolled students whose parents, step-parents, grandparents, or siblings attended Loyola.

The Legacy Scholarship is helping Allegra Tartaglia, history senior, explore her New Orleans roots while pursing an education and her dream job of becoming a foreign diplomat.

Tartaglia’s mother earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Loyola. Nine months after Tartaglia was born, the family moved to her father’s homeland of Italy so that her mother could be an elementary school teacher on U.S. military bases.

Tartaglia grew up in Italy, moving around to different cities, but her family visited New Orleans every summer. So when it came time to plan for college, Tartaglia felt a pull to New Orleans.

“I loved the city, and my mom spoke nothing but good about Loyola,” she says.

Tartaglia was able to receive the Legacy Scholarship for her junior and senior year, which has helped cut down on the family’s expenses. Not wanting to saddle their daughter with college loans, Tartaglia’s parents are paying for much of her education out of pocket, along with her travel from New Orleans to Italy.

“The scholarships have helped me alleviate the financial burden on my parents and have also given me more strength to continue on and do better in school,” she says.

By attracting and retaining quality students, scholarships serve as another way for Loyola and its students to remain competitive.

“We don’t just want students to be here. We want them to be successful here. Scholarships play a huge role in that,” Leiva says.

But perhaps the most critical piece to the scholarship puzzle is the donors, who allow the university to extend an education to more students each year.

“We cannot serve the students that we do without those contributions,” Liberto says.

Alumni do not have to wait until they can give a five- or six-figure gift though.

“I remind people that whatever age they are in their lives, even if they are a new, younger alumnus or alumna, any sort of gift they give helps the university,” Wildes says. “Providing scholarships gives Loyola an economically and culturally diverse student population. We have students from all backgrounds and walks of life. We want to be able to offer an education that is accessible to anybody.”

Check out our scholarships video.

Did a scholarship help you as a student? If so, share your story below in the comments. If you would like to donate to a scholarship, visit giving.loyno.edu


Autumn Cafiero Giusti ’00, a communication alumna, is a freelance writer and editor.

View the complete fall 2012 issue of LOYNO.

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