AMHERST, Mass. - It may not be exactly like winning the lottery, but for more than 200 students at the University of Massachusetts 212, to be exact - it’s the next best thing.
They have just been notified by the state that they are the recipients of "bonus" grants of $500 added on to their state financial aid packages by the Board of Higher Education’s office of student financial assistance. Called "Performance Bonus Grants," the awards are being presented by the state in recognition of high academic achievement to students with a previously demonstrated need for financial aid.
About 2,700 students in Massachusetts have been awarded the bonus grants, for a total of $1.2 million. UMass Amherst students received the highest number of bonus grants among students at all public colleges in the commonwealth for a total of $106,000. Students receiving financial assistance from the state who attend public or private institutions are eligible for the bonus awards, which are renewable from year to year. Students attending two-year schools receive bonus awards of $350.
"Five hundred dollars may not sound like a lot," says Burt Batty, director of financial aid services at UMass, "but to some students, it’s like $5,000. For them, it might be just enough to make a big difference enough to clear their bills for the second semester."
This is the first year of the bonus grant program, which was established to provide recognition and incentive for students to perform at high academic levels. The program is targeted to full-time, in-state students with the most financial need who have earned at least 24 credit hours with a grade-point-average of 3.0 or better.
"The bonus grants are designed to reward the success of the state’s neediest students," says Clantha Carrigan McCurdy, director of the office of student financial assistance. "They provide a financial incentive for these students to persist toward the achievement of a post-secondary degree."
The breakdown of students receiving bonus grants and their total dollar amounts follows: University of Massachusetts system - 541 students, $270,500; state colleges - 395 students, $197,500; community colleges - 768 students, $268,800; private institutions - 941 students, $470,5000; other schools - 51 students, $22,200.