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The Gatepost Editorial: Does the Refer a Ram program promote equity?

By The Gatepost Editorial Board 


FSU has introduced a new scholarship program, “Refer a Ram,” which awards incoming students $1,000 per year for four years if they are referred by a University alum. 


This program will be in effect for students admitted for the Fall 2024 semester. 


According to Shayna Eddy, associate dean of admissions, the scholarship is part of an effort to recruit and retain more students.


Alumni can refer anyone they believe would be a good student at FSU, which includes family and friends.


To refer a student, an alum needs to know very little about them - only their name, classification (first-year or transfer), semester they are applying for, the school they most recently attended, relationship to the alum, and the student’s email or birthday. 


The options for the relationship to the alumni range from relatives to coworkers, to “other,” so there are no immediate restrictions on who they are allowed to refer. 


This is the only step necessary to create a completed referral.When the referred student applies and is accepted, they will automatically receive the $1,000 scholarship for their first year at FSU.


But what about first-generation students who may be at a disadvantage when applying to higher education and who may not be from a community that has access to scholarship information?


In March 2021, Framingham State received a First-Gen Forward designation from the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation, according to the Framingham State website.


We at The Gatepost are concerned that this scholarship is not supportive of first-generation college students, as they might not know many college graduates - nevermind one from Framingham State.


It should be in the interests of Framingham State to attempt supporting first-generation students, but this scholarship does not.


First-generation students likely don’t have the support needed to find and apply for scholarships, and their parents or guardians may be too unfamiliar - or unwilling to submit long, information-dense forms required to enroll their children.


Entries to the Refer a Ram program might also be stunted in certain high schools. First-Gen students likely don’t know about the program, nor any FSU graduates, so it's up to the alumni at their schools to suggest the scholarship.


There’s drastically different scenarios to consider - an active, dedicated alumni teaching in a school of 700 might dedicate time out of their day to write dozens - or possibly even hundreds - of referrals.


On the other hand, what about in a school district where the stigma of going to a state university hasn’t been broken? Those alumni might be averse, or even afraid to mention their alma mater and the new program.


If the goal is to retain students, then those efforts should start with those already enrolled.


The scholarship is not available for those who are currently students at FSU, even if they have received an alumni referral prior to enrolling.


Is this an equitable scholarship for first-generation students or current FSU students? We do not think it is.


Additionally, The Gatepost’s Editorial Board believes an alumni referral isn’t necessarily meaningful - it's just proof of knowing someone who graduated from FSU. 


Last year, a total of 667 undergraduate students graduated from Framingham State along with 446 graduate students. The previous year, a total of 710 undergraduate and 472 graduate students graduated. 


That means in just the last two years, 2,295 students have graduated from FSU - and this scholarship can be granted by anyone who has ever graduated.


If a referral grants an instant scholarship, then, hypothetically what is preventing a graduate from FSU’s Class of 2023 from offering “$4,000 discounts" to Framingham State for a fee?


Besides our concerns about this scholarship, we do agree that a scholarship does not need to be offered to everyone to make it beneficial.


We do think that this scholarship could be the reason some students will choose to come to FSU. 


But we are concerned that it does put other students at a disadvantage as well as providing loopholes for abuse of the scholarship. 


We hope that these issues will be addressed before the Class of 2028 joins our campus. 


A scholarship is supposed to be based on merit - not who you know.

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