Ensuring College Access through Scholarships, Opportunities and Challenges: A College’s Perspective

A college education returns value to students, such as through increased career opportunities and income potential)—even greater happiness. But an under-recognized benefit is how continuing education is critical to maintaining a civil society. We all benefit when more individuals know how to think, review and interpret facts, and engage in our community.  

This was one of several topics covered on September 25, when more than fifty community members joined with two local college presidents to review the role of scholarships in helping our area students continue their education. Dr. Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President of Trinity College, and Dr. Tanya Millner-Harlee, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Manchester Community College were joined by  Jennyfer A. Holmes, Senior Scholarship and Development Officer of the Hartford Foundation in a panel discussion and question and answer session.  Below is a brief recap of the morning.

The Scholarship Award Process

  • In general, scholarships are available based on both financial need and merit (or past achievements).
  • Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is calculated based on the federal government’s form known as FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It is critical that students complete the FAFSA each year since this is how financial need is most often determined.
  • Many students miss out on scholarship dollars simply because they don’t receive communications or miss a deadline. For those who find the financial aid application process daunting, there are a number of places to find help, including a high school guidance department or a college financial aid office.   
  • Applying for external scholarships, such as through the Hartford Foundation, can give students more than dollars—it is also an opportunity to build a first resume. Being able to identify yourself as a “Named Award Scholar” has value.

Supporting Students Financially and Beyond

  • Student debt is not to be taken lightly, but those who “have skin in the game” by taking on a commitment to pay back loans have been shown to place a greater value on their education.
  • “Affordability” is relative. When you are struggling to make rent or buy groceries, even a small monthly payment can be painful.
  • Debt for students graduating from for-profit schools is often two times higher than those graduating from public or non-profit institutions. And students who leave college without graduating pay a high price, as they don’t benefit from increased future income.
  • Colleges are having to become more creative in how they support students. For example, Trinity offers specific funds for juniors and seniors who encounter financial difficulty. Manchester Community College has partnered with Food share to offer an on-campus food pantry, and with the YWCA to offer afterschool childcare.

Getting Involved

  • There are many benefits to those who support students, through scholarship dollars and beyond. Simply put, it feels good to make a contribution toward another’s education, knowing that you are contributing to society and paying forward from what you have received. Supporting a scholarship is also a way to build a personal legacy.  
  • Students benefit when they make a personal connection with a donor. The value of what they have received becomes more concrete. Students also benefit from gifts of time, such as through formal mentoring or informal networking and making job connections.
  • Many of our students today suffer from ABT, or “ain’t been told.”  Our young people may not have been exposed to conventional work expectations, such as traditional interview clothing. Helping our students practice what we as experienced workers take for granted can go a long way.
  • As our colleges and universities partner with neighborhoods and local employers, everyone wins. Colleges such as Trinity and MCC are committed to helping students benefit from new and broader experiences. At the same time, faculty gains a practical application for their field of expertise; employers gain a potential workforce that meets their needs, and community members benefit from a higher quality of life.

To learn more about opportunities to create or contribute to a scholarship at the Hartford Foundation, visit

To apply for a scholarship offered through the Foundation, visit

Or, contact Jennyfer A. Holmes, Senior Scholarship and Development Officer, at 860-548-1888 x1051.


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