Scholarship program plans to assist commuters financially and socially
By Cassidy Grom | Echo
Today, most first-year students will be lugging heavy fridges up stairs or unpacking overloaded boxes, but a few students will arrive on Taylor’s campus with nothing more than a backpack.
Commuters experience campus life differently than residential students. Taylor now offers a scholarship program to attract more commuters and enrich their college years.
Sixty-six undergraduates, or about 3.5 percent, traveled daily to the Upland campus during the last academic year, according to Taylor Institutional Research Analyst Steve Dayton. Similar numbers are expected for this year.
Commuters face some unique challenges, especially during the winter. Kelly Raver (’15) regularly drove 25 minutes from Montpelier, Indiana, but would often miss class in the colder months because of severe road conditions.
Additionally, commuter students may have to work harder to develop friendships.
“Commuter students have to be more intentional about getting involved in campus life since they do not have residence life to foster those connections,” said Shawnda Freer, director of the First Year Experience (FYE) program.
“It’s kind of hard to find a place of belonging as a commuter,” said Raver.
The graphic design major developed most of her deep friendships through involvement with the Ilium yearbook staff.
Senior Kayla Brooks spent her first year living on Second North English before she chose to be a live-in staff member at the Serenity House and commute to campus.
“I am really glad that I lived on campus freshmen year because I wouldn’t have gotten the experience of living on a wing,” she said. “(My) wingmates are (friends) forever.”
Students choose to commute for a variety of reasons, including personal preference, family needs or saving money on room and board.
“I have my own space,” Raver said. “I need quiet and time to do my homework by myself.”
Raver estimated that during her seven semesters of commuting, she saved between $25,000 and $30,000. Brooks said she saved around $16,000 over her five semesters.
This year, Taylor began offering a $17,000 scholarship to commuters to assist local students in Grant and Blackford counties.
Steve Mortland, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, has three daughters who attended Eastbrook High School. He heard that some of his daughters’ friends wanted to attend Taylor but were financially unable to do so. Mortland designed the Commuter Scholarship Program not only to make a Taylor education more accessible to locals, but also to connect Taylor to the community.
The scholarship program includes three freshmen this year. Mortland intends to meet monthly with the students and make sure each is connected to a resident life experience through naturally occurring friendships.
“When you are sitting in a class, (you’ve) got to find a way to make a connection,” he said.
Mortland hopes that once commuters befriend residential students, the commuters will feel more comfortable in places like the DC and chapel where students often sit with their residential wing or floor.
Each commuter in the program must participate in a local ministry and have an overseas experience.
Mortland’s goal is to add 10 students to the Commuter Scholarship Program each year. He is considering requiring these commuters to enroll in a handful of courses that have a discipleship component to further foster relationships.
Currently, freshmen commuters, like residential students, are required to participate in a FYE O-Group.
For the roughly 21 percent of commuters who are “non-traditional,” or over the age of 24, Freer said, “we work with those students on a case-by-case basis to be sure their needs are best met.”
A link to a list of frequently asked questions for commuters is available on the Welcome Weekend homepage. Today, FYE leaders are hosting a registration table where commuters can pick up their welcome booklet and eat lunch with O-Group Leaders.