June 29, 2022
By Interview by Luke Woodling ’17MBA
Rollins President Grant Cornwell discusses why prioritizing scholarships and financial aid is essential not only to extending opportunity to all deserving students but also to advancing the College’s mission and preparing tomorrow’s leaders.
Donors have myriad options for their philanthropy. How would you make the case that supporting students at Rollins through financial aid is the best investment they can make? For someone who wants to use their discretionary wealth to create change, there are a lot of contenders out there and they are all worthy, but I don’t think there is any place where someone can invest their philanthropic dollars that will do more good for the future than by investing in the liberal education of the next generation of leaders. When you support Rollins students through financial aid, you are giving them the best possible preparation to guide our nation and our world in addressing our most fundamental issues and opportunities.
How is supporting financial aid and scholarships strategically important to Rollins? How does the ability to support students financially make Rollins better? Financial aid remains a strategic priority for the College because the costs of providing the quality education that we do are going up faster than our families’ ability to pay for it, so we have to continue to fill that gap. We only have two choices. We can maintain the highest standards, continually strive for excellence in our educational experience, and raise the funds necessary to give every student the opportunity to earn a Rollins education. Or we can make compromises. We never want to make those compromises because they compromise the integrity of our mission.
What does the need for financial aid and scholarship support look like at Rollins? The need has never been greater. More than 95 percent of students received financial aid in fall 2021 to attend Rollins. Some of that support is for academic merit, some is athletic scholarships, and a great deal is based on need. The generosity of our donors is essential to maintaining and increasing that support. Another good indicator of the need for financial support is the percentage of our students who qualify for Pell Grants, which are federal financial aid grants that go to students from the lowest socioeconomic strata. As of fall 2021, more than 20 percent of Rollins students in the College of Liberal Arts were Pell-eligible. That number is nearly 50 percent for students in our Hamilton Holt School. Those numbers demonstrate that Rollins is a place for all students, and we need to serve all students in order to be an outstanding liberal arts college. Why? Because new ideas come out of the collision of different ideas, and for Rollins to be a hotbed of creative thought, innovation, and rigor, we need to bring together a community of learners from all manner of backgrounds. Every year, we strive to put together the best and brightest class—students who are most hungry for a Rollins education and are ready to engage our mission wholeheartedly. We can only do that if we can deploy aid to help all those deserving students attend.
Can you talk about how aid is also essential to allowing every student to experience the full richness of a Rollins education and why that is critical to our students’ success? One reason that Rollins is distinguished as the No. 1 liberal arts college in Florida and the No. 1 regional university in the South is because we’ve wrapped our curriculum around a set of educational practices that research says have the highest impact on learning. These high-impact practices are our signature programs—collaborative research, study abroad, immersion in service and civic engagement, close mentorship by faculty in small classes—and research shows they are essential to preparing students for meaningful lives and productive careers. They’re also expensive educational experiences, and we need to support them via philanthropy because they are the foundation of our educational excellence and our students’ success.
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