Column: Scholarships Available To Select Few?

August 25, 2015

Lucinda V Burgess[Opinion column written by Lucinda V. Burgess]

Are scholarships/grants in Bermuda made available to the select few?

The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the general public about the obstacles that people may face when applying for scholarships in the private and public sectors.

I am a full time, mature, graduate student who has halfway completed the coursework for a graduate degree.

I have used up all of my savings. I am blessed to have denominational support for partial tuition, but I struggle every semester to find funding for the other half as I am only allowed to work 20 hours per week on campus at US minimum wage.

For those persons who are in the same boat as this writer, do not let frustration or scholarship denials prevent you from your goal, keep on keeping on. Although the average person in an institution may finish their degree within the recommended time, there are always exceptions to the rule.

You may have to make some adjustments to your anticipated graduation time such as limiting the number of classes you take in a semester. But, don’t give up. When you walk across that stage, although you will have learned some valuable life lessons along the way, your reward will be in the completion of your degree!

We live in a world that is full of evolving challenges. In order to thrive in this world, the need for change is essential. More than ever before, people are switching careers, switching jobs and going back to school for additional education.

This switch is not taken lightly and brings with it, its share of anxieties as the person is often required to obtain a new level of education. And, trying to obtain a new level of education brings with it the additional burden of financing in a country whose walk and talk do not match.

When you live in a country that appears to pride itself on a marketplace with a high percentage of persons with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, yet they have not made adequate financial resources available to help those persons who may face financial challenges, one begins to question their commitment to higher education. Although the private sector offers scholarships, the majority of their scholarships are not only geared to specific programs, but they also help their own.

When it comes to assistance on a larger scale, most countries in the western world have a student loan program where students, who seek undergraduate or advanced degrees, can go to the government for assistance. And, upon completion of their specified program, within a few months after graduation, they begin to repay their student loan. To many, this is a reasonable expectation.

Although the Bermuda Government claims to have such a program, and each year they go so far as to place ads inviting persons to apply for scholarships or grants or student loans, they really don’t mean what they advertise. In fact, one can say they have falsely advertised.

To the lucky few who are able to obtain a scholarship or grant, I applaud them, but to the majority who for some reason are ineligible, the result of nepotism or some other form of unjust favoritism, they often cling to the hope of a student loan.

When this writer inquired about student loans, I was informed that the Government hasn’t granted any for a few years. So then the question becomes, if the Government isn’t granting student loans, then why put out the application form?

Additionally, I inquired as to why for three consecutive years, despite a cum laude grade point average [GPA], extensive community service and making less than eleven thousand dollars a year, the government has consistently denied my application for assistance.

After my second denial, I was informed that the government has not granted loans for a few years and after my third denial, I received the following response:

Thank you for your email. I can certainly appreciate your concern. This year we had a total number of 225 applications. Each year over the past three years applicants seeking scholarships and awards has increased. The majority of the applicants are seeking funding for their undergraduate degree.

The Scholarship Committee determined that undergraduates, especially those entering their third or final year were given priority, as I am sure you can appreciate. The need for funding is great, especially in view of the economic climate and The Scholarship Committee has done its best to meet the need as much as possible.

Are you serious, “I am sure you can appreciate?” Let’s be realistic, no one wants to hear the words ‘I am sure you can appreciate’ after they have not only consistently applied in that time frame, but have consistently been denied governmental assistance by a government who does not see advanced degrees as a ‘priority.’ Additionally, when did the government have the right to dictate what I can or cannot appreciate? Is Bermuda no longer democratic?

Ironically the same country who appears to pride itself on an educated workforce, is the same country that fails to provide adequate funding for persons seeking advanced degrees. They seem to put their backing in projects that appeal to them while the most fundamental project, higher education is placed low on the project scales.

But, on the flip side, as soon as that person obtains their degree, the same persons who denied them assistance on the way up [private and public sectors], are the same ones who willingly exploit them in the workforce upon completion of their degree.

I have a thought! Maybe it’s time to do a shakeup in the scholarship committee. When was the last time new members were added, or have the same persons been on the committee despite the changes we have had in governmental leadership.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, change is essential in a world full of changes. This means in order to thrive, we must change individually and in community. If there is no positive change than one begins to question the social ethics of that community.

- Lucinda V. Burgess

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Comments (72)

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  1. Family Man says:

    After reading that, is anyone really surprised Ms. Burgess has not been successful in her quest for a scholarship?

  2. concerned family man says:

    Our son (one of 4 children) handed in a complete application for a scholarship, a grant and a loan about 2 years ago within the application period. It was hand delivered. Until today we did not even get a note acknowledging the receipt of the applications, nor any decidion. It seems we have a “vitamin C” (connections) deficiency as well.

  3. Yahoo says:

    There are more avenues to scholarships than just the Bermuda government. The private sector is quite generous in this regard.

    • Lucinda V Burgess says:

      Yes, you are correct, there are more avenues than the Bermuda Government, as was stated in the article. I applaud the private sector for all the help they give to persons seeking higher education, but there is a slight catch as their awards/scholarships/grants depend on your field of study. I have discovered the area that I seeking an advanced degree, religion, does not have any scholarships/awards/grants air marked to it. As for those scholarships/awards/grants that are not labeled, ‘general’ is applied to them.

      • serengeti says:

        You’re a mature student taking your time on a postgraduate degree that is, let’s say, highly limited in it’s broader value to society.

        The other 225 applicants are probably more deserving than you.

        Of course you don’t agree, but then the world doesn’t owe a scholarship to every single applicant.

        • Lucinda V Burgess says:

          Hmmmm…”a degree that is limited in it’s broader value to society. Spoken by someone who does not understand the significance of a MDiv.

          • Sickofantz says:

            Then please explain it?

          • hmmm says:

            Do you really believe you are more deserving than those who did get scholarships?

            Please explain the significance of an MDiv.

          • serengeti says:

            A matter of opinion. Stick your head in the sand all you want. You get no sympathy from me.

          • PBanks says:

            That may be the question that the powers that be may have: what is the value to Bermuda of an advanced degree in religion studies.

            Are the people responsible for allocating scholarships for post-grad work, going to value at a higher level, fields relating to say medicine, law or STEM, over fields like religious studies? Could be something to ask Government about…

            • SEATS says:

              Why do we issue so many religious work permits? We have a woman who wants to qualify to fill one of those positions and you are a being arses.

              • Riley says:

                She wants other people to pay for her to pursue it.
                Public Scholarship funds should be directed primarily to young people going off the college for their first degrees. Not for middle-aged people looking to pursue a hobby.

          • Navin Johnson says:

            It is also the separation of Church and State…

      • Look Within says:

        Ms. Burgess,

        I’m not sure why you would feel that you are more deserving than anyone else. Do you know all the applicants personally? Are your grades better? Why do you seem to imply that government should be paying for any of your education, or anyone else’s education for that matter?.

        I applaud you for chasing your dreams and setting goals. However, if you did not save or plan for this day don’t EXPECT or DEMAND that others help. We as a people come to the aid of those in need, not to those in want!

        My sister sold her condo when she decided to return to school at 33. My cousin worked two jobs for 6 years to pay for his university degree and took classes on line to save some money.

        Clearly you haven’t learned very much from reading the ‘good books”. Someone is not such a great student! It is better to give, than to receive!

        If this opinion piece is any indication of how your application or letter was written or if this is the tone you used in any interview, then hmmmmm….I think some of us reading this might see why you were not a recipient.

  4. Acegurl says:

    Totally agree. The same people sit on the committees year after year. It’s time for a shakeup.

    • hmmm says:

      Evidence?

    • Left Guard says:

      Almost every company, trust, association or individual that gives away a scholarship has its OWN board. How can you make such an ignorant statement?

  5. Angela Best says:

    Why is it that the scholarship funds appears to always go to students whose parents are more than capable of paying their tuition? Scholarships should be required for the students who are really under financial need and the “rich” children should not be allowed to apply.

    • FrankTalk says:

      Key is in the name…scholarships are generally awarded to top students.

      What you are really highlighting is that the correlation between economic circumstances and academic performance……i.e. the wealthier your family is the more likely you will be a top student….

    • Lucinda says:

      Yes, but that’s what happens when you live in a classist society. Although people are allowed to voice their opinions, nothing really changes as those in the upper/elite class of the community will, “by what-ever-means necessary,” do what they must to prevent growth from those outside of the upper/elite class.

      • hmmm says:

        Nonsense…that’s what certain people want you to believe. People are successful because they earn it, they don’t spend time holding others back.

        • hmmm says:

          Are you the person in the article, as your picture matches up with a post using that full name.

          Are you training in religion to be one of these hate preachers, divisive and politically motivated?

        • Johnny says:

          And a lot of people are successful because they STOLE it, or by FORCING others to do all the hard work, for little to no renumeration. There is a lot of old money running around bermuda that was EARNED this way.

      • Skeptical says:

        My daughter got a four year fully funded scholarship and we are most certainly not in the upper/elite class….working poor more like, making it pay cheque to pay cheque. However she chose a field of study that was in demand and worked hard throughout her years of high school and in her chosen extracurricular activities.

        • Look Within says:

          @Skeptical.

          Your daughter likely got her scholarship because she worked hard, got great grades. I would guess she is also probably a well rounded individual that works hard at everything and volunteers. She deserves it I’m sure. Ms. Burgess seems to not understand what the “SCHOLAR”in scholarship means.

      • Education says:

        Lucinda, your attitude is not one that engenders support. You make reference to “supporting their” and other comments that suggest judgemental thinking. With the degree you are studying you should be pursuing the churches for funding as they have loads of money. You should consider services to the church for any funds received. Stop blaming the Government as they provide quite a large amount of funds toward education. Clearly this article shed a light on you and not a bright one.

    • PBanks says:

      Could be tricky. It may seem like a punishment to a high achiever, because of something they had no part in, to get denied a top scholarship.

      There should be room for purely meritocratic awards/scholarships, in Bermuda. Surely Bermuda could have both?

    • Hurricane says:

      What parents have (or don’t have) should never come into play when awarding scholarships.

    • Left Guard says:

      Scholarships are not just intended to assist with school funding. Many companies use them as a means to attract the best students. They pay for schooling up front and in return, the agree to work for “X” years for that firm. Sometimes (not always) those students may be the children of parents that can afford it. Does that mean that these students are not deserving of a reward and should be omitted from Summer and / or full time employment after University.

      I did not receive a scholarship. However, my single mother was wise enough to save a little money each month (and my birthday money) in case I decided to attend College or University some day. We went without many of the things that my friends around me had, the flash car, the vacations etc.

      Unfortunately, many of us have this ME, ME, ME mentality and expect that someone will give us what we need instead of planning and saving or living beyond our needs. Nobody owes you anything and nobody is entitled to anything.

      There are scholarship funds, savings plans, and all sorts of people out their that can help you plan save for your children’s future. Don’t wait until they are in their final year of school to try and figure out how you are going to pay for it.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      *Why is it that the scholarship funds appears to always go to students whose parents are more than capable of paying their tuition? …..and the “rich” children should not be allowed to apply.*

      The thing is , most people don’t recognize other people’s children as being ‘rich’ until they see them being sent away to school without scholarships . Then they jump to make assumptions and draw false conclusions.

      They never noticed how for years the parents were preparing for the day their offspring might end up furthering their education overseas.
      Sacrificing the 4+ trips a year (including the cruises and shopping trips) . The no new , heavily accessorized , car every few years . The no expensive clothes and accessories. The no going out every other night of the week. The no eating out every five minutes.
      And the list goes on and on .

      But , no . They get labelled as ‘rich ‘ or dare I say ‘privileged’
      instead .

  6. Bermudian Momma says:

    I can totally agree with the writer. As a mature student working full-time, it is harder to find scholarships that do not have an age limit. I now have 2 children of college age and I am hoping they will be successful in securing scholarships, in the meantime, they will attend the Bda College taking general courses as the College does not offer an Associates Degree in the field they are interested in.

  7. Regina says:

    Wait…let me get this straight…the government is supposed to be footing the bill for my education???

    • Hurricane says:

      That is not what is being said, but there are countries that do educate it’s people.

      • serengeti says:

        Just out of interest, what countries would provide a full scholarship for a mature student to carry out postgraduate studies in religion?

        • Hurricane says:

          Regina never said she was a mature student carrying out postgraduate studies for religion. To quote her “Wait…let me get this straight….the government is suppose to be footing the bill for my education???”

          Don’t try to put words in my mouth!

        • Lucinda V Burgess says:

          America allows financial aid for all disciplines; undergraduate and post graduate!

    • Bloopbleepbloop says:

      Yeah. They should. There is more than enough evidence that proves that education spending lowers crime rates and raises GDP

      • Sickofantz says:

        Please how me the evidence where providing a grant to a 45 year old studying religeon is going to do either of those things?

        • Bloopbleepbloop says:

          Not necessarily this woman, in this case, but the government should be spending way more on education and giving way more grants to people for all types of degrees and careers.

  8. Sickofantz says:

    I think that the writer of this letter has somewhat eroded the strength of her argument by saying that she is studying for a degree in religeon!

    How exactly would her field of study improve Bermuda! perhaps the writer should have considered studying for a degree in a subject relevant to Bermuda’s people and it’s economy rather this mickey mouse subject.

    • jt says:

      I think she should see if the churches are offering scholarships, grant or loans.

      • hmmm says:

        she gets reduced fees because of her denomination. That is equivalent to a scholarship

  9. Barbara T. says:

    Where the children of so many of our schools do not even say grace before eating lunch, or recognize Jesus at the annual Christmas play, I can see where it would be difficult for a scholarship committee to support religion for a 45+ year old applicant. Donors and units like that don’t want to be tied to any religious doctrine for the most part. Its a challenge for you, yes, but understand completely.

  10. enough says:

    We gave up tring.

  11. Marie says:

    I agree with this writing to some extent about more financial assistance made available to assist our students to further their education. I am a recipient of a government further education award and a student loan from government and through BNTB. The problem with the students loans is that people don’t payback their loan upon obtaining a full time job. Government only requires the individual to pay back $500 per year until the loan is paid off. That is nothing if you are working. Even if you make a monthly commitment of $50 or $100. There are many students who obtain this student loan and are employed by the government, but don’t make any payments. Why is it we can’t repay back what was loaned to us, so that the next person can receive this same opportunity.

    • Lucinda V Burgess says:

      The government NO LONGER funds student loans through any banking institution!

      • serengeti says:

        Because those loans are not repaid. The days of giving away money are gone.

  12. Watcher says:

    While I can appreciate the writer’s opinion, as well as understand her demise, I have a more important question to ask. Why is it that we don’t understand that a scholarship is like a bonus, it is not an entitlement and every one that applies will not be granted one? We need to realize that when we have children, it is our responsibility (yes, I said responsibility) to prepare them for adulthood. That means more than just food and shelter. That also includes an education that will allow them to live independently as adults. For many years now, that has meant more than a high school education that is provided free by government. This is something we need to consider at birth and not when your child is ready for college. My child is now a gainfully employed adult in a field that she is fully qualified for (Masters Degree) that Her parents paid for as it was our responsibility to do. And no, I’m not rich by any means and I did take out a loan to pay for her graduate degree, but I realized years ago that not everyone will get a scholarship no matter how deserving and my child was not going to get left behind because she didn’t get one. Also, as mentioned, we have to consider the field of study. Generally, the public and the private sectors offer scholarships in the areas that will benefit their particular interests and that’s perfectly understandably.

  13. clearasmud says:

    I agree 100% with Watcher, but there still should be a government operated loan program where the Child makes the loan and the parent is a guarantor. Afterall public money is the peoples money! Education is a good way to invest in the future! The funds could be diverted from some other lee important program as there are few things more important than education!

    • Look Within says:

      They have places where you can take a guarantor and get a loan. Its called a bank.

  14. Taking the road less travelled says:

    Many Bermudian students are now going to study in the UK as tuition fees are the same as UK students (GBP 9,000) and, even better than that, tuition is FREE in some of the Scandinavian countries as well as Germany for international students and students are already taking advantage these exceptional opportunities. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32821678.

  15. Navin Johnson says:

    Bermuda too many preachers and too many politicians…….

  16. Bermuda Jake says:

    I found the whole tone of the article to be accusatory.

    As an adult pursuing a second degree it makes perfect sense that you would come second to a child pursuing their first.

    Private Companies give their money to causes they believe in. If a company decides to help Bermudians get into their industry they should be applauded. Bermuda has more scholarships available per capita than anywhere. Yet again we subject ourselves to the criticism that no matter what we get we always want more.

    I have no problem with you pursuing an MDiv but shouldn’t that be supported by your industry and congregation?

    I sat on a scholarship committee and there were tons of needy kids who got money to pursue their dreams. This criticism is way off the mark.

    • leelee says:

      I totally agree with this comment and this being the writer’s first article gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Companies also look for return on investment so if they are gonna get more years out of a younger person in terms of years of work before retirement then that’s where they will invest thier money. The writer based on her faith would also know that if something is not for you God won’t give it to you. He may have something better waiting for her.

      • Lucinda V Burgess says:

        It’s said that you have made assumptions about the writer, but that’s what happens when you live in a community who fears/ostracizes anyone who has the boldness to ask questions about the education system. Last time I looked Bermuda was a democratic government. Or, am I wrong? Have things changed so much in the last two years that people are no longer allowed to voice their opinion without fear of reprisal.

        • The People Have Spoken says:

          You have the right to speak your opinion and we have the right to disagree with you. You feel entitled to money that you have not earned, and that doesn’t resonate with most hard-working people.

  17. In the know says:

    I have a family member who pursued and achieved a Doctoral degree and like the writer, was never given an academic scholarship. There are certain individual who sit on Scholarship Boards every year, with their own agendas, who will never vote for certain groups of society, regardless of the applicants academic achievements. I know I have experienced it. As soon as I knew this individual was on the interviewing board I knew my child would never get a scholarship and guess what I was right. For example heads of educational establishments should never be on scholarship interviewing panels. Lecturers and teachers within the b disciplne yes! Heads barely if ever, are in the teaching/learning environment.

  18. Between de lines says:

    Dear writer, I find your message interesting of a few things.

    One, you seem to feel that government or any other institution is not putting you above other applicants for an award. You are not aware of the achievements of other applicants, nor who they are. Plus, the note states the majority of applicants are undergrads (that makes perfect sense), plus it did NOT by any means state that post grad students are not eligible. So I would stop taking it personally if I were you.

    Secondly, as other persons have noted, as for private business awards, it makes sense as well that businesses look to place their monies where it would potentially benefit them in the long term. I guess in a way this applies to government as well. Which brings me to my third point.

    As a student of religion or divinity, your tone, in my humble opinion, is all wrong. “Spoken by someone who does not understand the significance of a MDiv.” As though you are loftier than the person commenting. Not to mention you did not even clearly state what degree you are pursuing in your article. It would seem to me that you missed out on the foundation course “Humility 101”. When Jesus came to earth, he did not posture and tell the world “Hey I am here to save you all from yourselves, so I demand respect, and while you’re at it, I want to ride in style on your dollar.” No. He rode in on a donkey… the lowliest of creatures. Anyway, that wasn’t supposed to be my point here. The point is, as I see it, the churches are overflowing with ministers, assistant ministers, executive ministers, you-name-it ministers etc. They are not in “demand”. Also, it’s not like the churches are overflowing with congregations/members. If this algorithm were in balance, then I figure if the pews were full and the ministers in charge effective along with their assistants, the collection plates would be overflowing, hence MAYBE, just MAYBE the “church” would then be in a position of providing a scholarship for persons such as yourself, just like the businesses provide for their benefit as stated above. There are some excellent men and women of God out there, so no, my personal evaluation of this situation does not apply to all, it would be unfair to put all ministers or ministers to be in that position. However, if God has really called you to the ministry, then why aren’t you trusting Him to provide?

  19. just saying says:

    Having had two children who were hard working students along with so many extracurricular activities…dance, music, every sport going, packing groceries, volunteering…my head was giddy from all they had to do. They applied for everything possible but never got a scholarship. The amount of information required for each one, along with transcripts at cost, and testimony from an upstanding citizen…hmm, how is that defined? Not everyone rubs shoulders with elite. So, at great expense and sacrifice (you have to do the same for both)I funded them and they are now very productive citizens. Sadly there is never a response or letter to say,” We are sorry to inform you”..it is not a good example to set when trying to instill some etiquette trainin etc to teenagers. I really wonder how some really gifted children from economically challenged families get a foot up the ladder despite their academic achievements. It is so easy to kill the spirit if the funding appears out of reach and I fear they develop that” what’s the point?” attitude . We have so many gifted children who have the potential. I wonder how many scholarships remain untouched . Shame there is no advert to urge people to try because they are often unheard of and no applications received.

  20. Lucinda V Burgess says:

    To everyone that responded to this article (both negative and positive). I Lucinda V. Burgess, the writer, would like to thank you for your response. Your response has generated conversation with a topic that should be regularly revisited.

    Since the article is an opinion article, the writer has the right to voice her point of view. It is unfortunate that although the writer applauded those that received scholarships, that point was conveniently overlooked by others that spun the article to focus on just scholarships and not other forms of financial aid. Nor was this article of religion, but there are always naysayers that want to put down the religious community.

    Bermuda is no different to other countries that fail to adequately support the higher education of its people. There are those who turn their noses up at America, but America has a federal loan program to aid those who wish to pursue higher education, regardless of their major. I, the writer firmly believes that since there were 200+ people who did not receive government help, not just the writer, there is a need for a Bermuda government assisted loan program to help those who, for some reason or the other, do not qualify for scholarships from the government or private sector; especially for mature Students who do not have a guarantor.

    • Nicky says:

      Hi Ms. Burgess,

      After I read your article, I knew majority of the feedback was going to be negative. Some individuals just THRIVE on negativity. I commend you for returning back to school. I also attended university as a mature student a few years back. I applied for scholarships within the private sector and government. I was unsuccessful on every application (and I did follow ups). I was a bit disappointed. Nor, did I believe that I was entitled to an award; so I accepted the outcome. At least I tried. I hope you find funding to continue with your education. All the best.

      • Lucinda V Burgess says:

        Thank you Nicky,

        I also applaud you for returning to school. I knew that once this article was published there would be negative responses, but that’s okay. As the saying goes what doesn’t break you will only makes you stronger. When you come from a country that does it’s best to shut down people who go against the status quo, it makes one wonder what is the true agenda of those persons making the negative remarks.

        I may not have material wealth, but my returning to school has opened doors that men cannot close. I have a magna cum laude GPA and I am very active in my academic community.

  21. Ash says:

    I think as Bermudians we have far many scholarships available to us than the vast majority of other people. We have tons of scholarships for different levels of education, some for both genders, some just for women (which in my opinion is wrong if you don’t have some for just men which they don’t), for different age brackets, income brackets, scholarship for doing well academically, police scholarship, scholarship in tough times.
    I graduated in June of 2014. I applied for around 10 scholarships, only 1 did I hear back from and I got an interview and was later rewarded as the recipient. I also know that more than 11% of my graduating class received a scholarship noted at graduation, more probably received one that was not mentioned, mine for example wasn’t mentioned at graduation. Also not all of my class continued education some joined the work force. So the number is much higher than 11%. In 2007-2008 (most recent date I could find), in America less than 6% of students received scholarships. BTW just for reference I went to Berkeley, a public high school.
    My point is just because you struggled to receive one doesn’t mean we have a short supply of them. I have heard many people who sit on scholarship boards say that they weren’t able to chose a recipient because no one applied. As a Bermudian in Bermuda we have much to be thankful for and the availability of scholarships is one of them. They are doing a lot for us, more than they do for people in other countries.
    Scholarship recipients in Bermuda are not the lucky few. The stats reject your claim.
    I’m sorry you weren’t one of those people who received a scholarships, but your claims simply aren’t true. As a country, higher education is very well funded by both the government and the private sector, we are blessed but we can’t expect to just have these scholarships, grants and bursaries to fall in our lap. Some very well deserving people will not get help and that’s unfortunate, but looking at the bigger picture we can clearly see that money for higher education is a non-problem in Bermuda at least compared to other countries.