Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Kerwin announces full scholarships for dependents of contracted workers

Scholarships to begin in fall 2017, but details of plan still to be finalized

 Kerwin announces full scholarships for dependents of contracted workers

Aramark workers tell their stories with 2016 alum Carlos Vera during an April 20 rally for workers' rights. Another rally will be held on Sept. 6 to demand that Ana Ebanks be reinstated in her position.

University President Neil Kerwin announced in a memorandum on May 5 that children of contracted workers will be able to attend the University tuition-free beginning in the fall of 2017.


The scholarships will be funded by tuition revenue, according to Vice President for Communication Terry Flannery.


Individuals employed by Aramark, Follett and Mail Services, the University’s three primary contracted vendors, have never received tuition benefits for their dependents because they are not employed directly by the University. However, University employed faculty and staff receive four years of college tuition for their dependents as part of their benefits package.


The new scholarship will give all dependents of these three permanent contractors the opportunity to receive four years of tuition free attendance at AU, according to Vice Provost for Enrollment Sharon Alston. A specific amount of money has not been set aside for the scholarships, Flannery said.


“He’s spent a lot of time listening this semester, and I think hearing directly from some of the contract workers themselves, from the students and faculty, and from a variety of parties, he was moved to do something more,” Flannery said.


Alston will work with financial aid and admissions to iron out the details of the program this summer. Students will still need to apply normally and be admitted to the University to take advantage of the scholarship. Dependents must demonstrate both high academic achievement and significant financial need in their application to be eligible; there will be no cap on the number of scholarships awarded, according to Alston.


The new scholarship could give Maria Perla, an Aramark housekeeping employee, the opportunity to send her son Oscar Perla to college. He graduated from high school last year and started working after graduation instead of attending college.


“I would like for him to be able to study,” Perla said in an interview translated from her native Spanish. “He graduated from high school last year, but the problem is that I am the only person who works, and we cannot pay for university.”


Perla has been working at the University since 1989. She learned about Kerwin’s announcement of the new scholarship program from Carlos Vera, the former student chair of the Justice for AU Workers Coalition. Vera informally announced the scholarship program to attendees at a rally on April 20.


Flannery said that the idea for scholarships has been “raised periodically over the years,” but was most recently proposed during the board forum last November with Kerwin. Vera met individually with Gail Hanson, VP of Campus Life, to discuss the scholarships at the beginning of the spring semester, Vera said.


Vera later met with Kerwin, and his argument remained the same: scholarships for contracted workers, even though they aren’t directly employed by the University, would fit the University’s core values and bring increased diversity to the student body.


Vera plans to see the scholarships through during the summer after he graduates, however he says it is still unlikely that these students will actually attend AU.


“The reality, given the demographics, these children are not going to come here,” Vera said. “ At the same time, they should have the same opportunity that the child of a staff member or faculty has. That’s what we’re fighting for. We’ll fight, when they kind of get down to the minutiae, in terms of how to make the scholarships effective, accessible and equitable.”


crozen@theeagleonline.com


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