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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Paying it forward

Photo by Courtesy of the Association of Former Students

Started in 2013, the Aggie Ring scholarship program offers financial assistance to students and has funded over 1,500 Aggie Rings.

College is already quite an expense in itself, but on top of trying to make ends meet, some Aggies also have to worry about how they will afford their earned Aggie gold.
After seeing a financial need among students regarding the cost of Aggie Rings, the Association of Former Students created the Aggie Ring Scholarship program, according to its website. Manager of Development Sheila Connor said the program took off in 2013 and now has 197 endowed scholarships as well as additional scholarships that are provided by donors in conjunction with the Association.
“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’ve now awarded over 1,500 Aggie Ring scholarships,” Connor said. “[The] number just continues to grow and will get bigger and bigger every single year as the program grows.”
Director of Campus Programs Kelli Hutka said students can apply for an Aggie Ring scholarship by completing the continuing student scholarship application, which typically opens in October and closes on Feb. 1.
“There is a supplemental question within that that asks, ‘Are you going to be ordering your Aggie Ring in the upcoming academic year?’” Hutka said. “For those students who select they are going to be receiving their Aggie Ring, [they] will be considered for one of the scholarships that would be available and made available through the gift agreement that the individual donor has selected.”
With various types of scholarship categories, Connor said there are multiple ways for students to be chosen.
“It’s really up to the donors on what criteria is used to select a recipient,” Connor said. “Some donors choose things like kids from their hometown or students with a certain major in a certain college. Some choose students that are participants in a certain student organization. So, it’s really kind of all over the place.”
Hutka said students are typically notified in May if they will receive a ring scholarship.
“[Since] eligibility obviously happens at different points in the year for students, they [are] able to come into the Association to order their Aggie Ring [anytime during their ordering period] and let us know that they bought a ring scholarship where we would apply the funds available to prove that scholarship,” Hutka said.
Scholarships typically are awarded $1,000 for men and $500 for women due to the difference in size of the rings, Connor said. If students choose to get any additional features, Connor said the student is responsible for the additional costs.
The scholarship funds are managed by the Association so when students come to order their rings, they will just need to inform the staff member assisting them, Connor said.
During Ring Day, donors with endowed ring scholarships are invited to come to a special ceremony where they can meet the student they sponsored and celebrate with them as they get their Aggie Ring.
“There’s a lot more interaction with ring scholarships than there are with academic scholarships because Ring Day is such a special thing for the donors to get to be there and see their students get the ring, it’s really special,” Connor said.
Hutka said during the presentation of Aggie Rings, many donors are delighted to see the recipient that they funded receive their ring from friends or family members.
“The donors are just delighted to be there to see that excitement,” Hutka said. “[Many donors] recall the time when they remember putting on that Aggie Ring and reflect upon the many memories they’ve made themselves, or … that their loved ones have worn a ring.”
Hutka said the Association knew many donors would be interested in this program because of what their Aggie Ring means to them.
“We knew it was going to be [an] endowment that individuals would be very interested in because it provides that visible symbol of the Aggie Network,” Hutka said. “We’ve had many donors very interested in the endowment because of the tangible aspects of it and also because of the memories that they’ve made with their Aggie Ring. They’re excited to continue that tradition for current students and also to help support current students who may have a financial need to be able to experience that Aggie tradition.”
The program has continued to dramatically increase the number of scholarships awarded each year, but Connor said it still has room to grow with the increased number of students with financial need.
“We’re adding about 30 endowments per year, so the program’s growing rapidly. [But we are] still not even coming close to meeting the need for financial assistance with scholarships,” Connor said. “But for a fairly new program, we’re getting there and it’s really gaining steam over the last few years.”
Connor said the Association is beginning to see students who received a scholarship during their time in college come back to pay it forward by creating their own endowed scholarship.
“I do have one student that is already fully funded in [an] endowment. She’s a veteran that was a recipient of a veteran ring scholarship, and as she could she founded her own endowment,” Connor said. “It’s really exciting to see the students who received a ring scholarship paying it forward and supporting other students with the same type of gift.”
Those interested in creating an endowed scholarship would need to talk to the Association to set up and choose the criteria for their scholarship, Connor said.
“We work with donors, most of them come to us with an interest in the ring scholarship program,” Connor said. “An endowed scholarship has a minimum donation of $25,000 that can be paid out over five years and is fully tax deductible.”
Connor said the Association also takes gifts of any amount, which go into a pool of money that is then used to distribute more ring scholarships.
If students are not selected to receive a scholarship, the Financial Aid Office offers short-term loans to students who are receiving their Aggie Rings.
“Qualified students may borrow funds to assist them in purchasing a basic 10K Aggie Senior Ring,” the financial aid website reads. “You must have completed 90 credit hours at the time of application to be eligible. You may only be approved for one Aggie Ring Loan during your academic career.”

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