Students and faculty discuss the future of JCU’s signature programs


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Both members and directors of JCU’s signature programs debate whether prospective freshmen will apply to the programs without a scholarship reward.

Laken Kincaid, Campus Editor

In October of last year, the JCU signature program directors announced the decoupling of the mission-based scholarships including Leadership, Arrupe and Honors programs. Each of these initiatives require early applications and allow new students to find their own communities working towards their respective program’s mission. . Incoming freshmen will no longer receive the $5,000 aid amount towards their tuition previously included with admission to these three programs.

Since this announcement, another cycle of admissions to the JCU signature programs has closed. Reportedly, the defunding has negatively impacted application rates to these programs. Along with fewer applications, some students and faculty members have stated their disapproval for the decisions.

Daniel Kilbride, director of the Honors Program, agreed that the previous scholarship amount may have been excessive but stated that it was a major pull to JCU. 

“I understand that the University leadership felt that $5000/year scholarships for students in the mission based programs were excessive and unsustainable,” Kilbride told The Carroll News. “In fact, I agree. However, I fear that in going from $5000 to $0, prospective students who might otherwise have attended JCU to participate in these programs will go elsewhere. In other words, it is not not simply that these programs will be harmed — the University will be harmed via diminished enrollment.”

Some honors students said that they would not have applied for the program if they did not receive the scholarship. Grace Sherban ‘25, a student in the honors program, stated that the scholarship was a large factor in her application.

“In all honesty, I would not have joined the honors college if it was not for the scholarship provided by the University,” Sherban said. 

However, others in the program still feel that the scholarship, while a bonus, was not the only factor that made them apply. Vilma Dudaitis ‘24, another honors student, said that, while aid was a large factor in choosing JCU let alone the honors program, she still would have applied regardless.

“I think I would have still applied if there was no money because I was always an honors student in high school and I think I would’ve liked the idea of taking classes that challenged my thinking more than regular classes might have,” Dudaitis said. “I have always deeply valued my education and academics so I think I would’ve applied.”

Kyle O’Dell, director of the leadership scholarship, says that he expected application rates to drop after the scholarship was defunded. 

“When the directors of the four mission-based programs learned that the financial aid awards were going to be decoupled from participation in the programs, we anticipated that there was going to be a decline in applications compared to past years,” O’Dell said. “The program directors will make offers to qualified incoming students who applied to be a part of these programs for Fall of 2022 and the University will continue to look for ways to improve the student experience within the programs.”

JP Yerian ‘23, a leadership scholar, holds high hopes for the program’s future stating that the leadership development minor will keep it afloat. 

“I think the program losing the scholarship will not affect the future classes because the leadership minor is very popular even though no scholarship is offered for it,” Yerian said. “When I was applying to be a leadership scholar, I originally found it because of the scholarship opportunity. However, because of what the program offers other than the scholarship, I would still apply even without a scholarship.”

Sydnia De Franco, director of the Arrupe program, carries this same faith for the service initiative. Yet, she notes that the scholarship did see fewer applicants this year than in the past.

“No matter what happens, I hope the Arrupe program continues at JCU,” De Franco told The Carroll News. “I think the Arrupe Social Justice Scholars program brings and keeps some incredible students at JCU. I know there is no other program like it with both an academic curriculum and a co-curricular component and a cohort model in an undergraduate setting. We did have fewer applications than we have had historically. Nevertheless, the ones we received illustrate what Arrupe does well: we attract students from various demographics, and bring diversity to campus. My hope is that the program is valued and highlighted for the many strengths it brings to the JCU community.”

Selena Alamir ‘24, agreed that defunding the Arrupe scholarship will most likely cause fewer incoming students to apply to the program and the university as a whole. She also says she fears that the defunding could lead to a less diverse population of students in the future.

“I definitely do think that removing the Arrupe scholarship has decreased application rates to the program,” Alamir said. “I have spoken to our director about the demographics of students accepted into the Arrupe program and also learned that a majority of minority students with a scholarship from either the honors, leadership, or Arrupe programs need those scholarships to be able to afford their education. In my opinion, I believe that budget cuts should have been in other departments because the Arrupe students specifically stand out as the leaders on campus.”

Alamir says that, while she would have still applied to the program without the scholarship, that others feel like their extra work in the cooperation should be reimbursed.

“ I have talked to other students and many of them would not because the amount of work that supplements the program requires an incredible amount of time and effort,” Alamir continued. “Whether that is fundraising efforts, taking enough classes to newly fulfill a minor in PJHR or approaching our education with a social justice lens, the Arrupe program shapes tomorrow’s social justice leaders. It is quite frankly disappointing and disrespectful to watch this program fall apart due to the administration’s selfishness.”

Leanna Nasrallah, another Arrupe scholar, echoed these same concerns saying that the funding was specifically a draw for her to the program. 

 “I applied because it was a scholarship program,” Nasrallah told The Carroll News. “That is not to say it is not an extremely valuable program. I’d argue that being in the program has contributed more to my education than any other thing I have gotten involved with.”

As the University shifts its strategic focus towards new initiatives around the proposed College of Health Sciences and major campus construction projects, the long-term strength of previous pillars of the John Carroll experience –– like the signature programs ––seems uncertain.