Oregon State University logo

Honors College Scholarships Transform Students’ Experiences

Every student comes to the Honors College with their own unique perspectives, talents and interests, ready to develop and explore. They share experiences through classes, research, the honors thesis and other activities while forging their individual paths. But their financial situations are their own.

This year in the Honors College, about 36% of students have some financial need, and 17.5% have a significant need as based on data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. But the true need extends beyond these numbers.

“The FAFSA does not oftentimes reflect a student’s lived reality,” says Dean Toni Doolen. “The FAFSA paints an incomplete picture of what the actual need is.”

Thanks in large part to donor support, the Honors College is addressing these real student needs through scholarships that help cover tuition and fund transformational experiences. The impact on students is both immediate and long-lasting. Scholarships allow students to complete their degrees in the Honors College and pursue experiential learning opportunities that prepare them for successful careers and meaningful lives.

Differential tuition scholarships help make ends meet

Because of how Oregon State University structured the Honors College when it was established in 1995, the cost of providing honors classes and other programming is funded by differential tuition. Honors students currently pay an extra $500 per term.

Doolen says students recognize the necessity of differential tuition, but they also don’t want it to be a barrier for themselves or their classmates. Following a series of community discussions about the need to increase differential tuition in 2016, students recommended the creation of a scholarship to cover the extra costs.

The college provided a stipend for a team of students to develop a scholarship application that reflected their priorities. The application is brief, recognizing students have packed schedules and many have jobs outside of school. Applicants can provide as much or as little detail about their finances as they’re comfortable sharing. And the application allows students to describe how a scholarship would impact them directly. The selection criteria prioritize applicants who are closer to graduation and also consider engagement in the honors community.

The scholarship covers either the full $1,500 in differential tuition or half at $750 per year. For the 2019-20 academic year, the Honors College received 198 applications and awarded 54 full and 36 half scholarships, 22 of which were donor-funded.

With an award rate of 45%, there is still more need for scholarships than funds available. However, they are working as intended, helping students like Caitlin Reid, Aarushi Arora and Kate Hultberg remain in the Honors College and complete their degrees.

Caitlin Reid: Converting an internship into a leadership opportunity

Caitlin Reid, who is graduating with a degree in bioengineering at the end of the winter term, has received the differential tuition scholarship for the past three years and says she probably wouldn’t have been able to stay in the Honors College without it.

Reid is paying her own way at Oregon State, having worked two jobs through high school. After taking her freshman year off to focus on adjusting to college, she has held multiple jobs on and off campus ever since.

”I’ve had to work really, really hard to even graduate in the sense of financially being able to afford to be here,” she says.

Fortunately, one of those jobs was a paid MECOP internship at Genentech in Hillsboro. Reid is continuing to work for the biotech company as a remote contractor, plus she has been recruited into its leadership development program in San Francisco starting in September.

Reid says receiving the scholarship has reduced stress and allowed her to stay engaged in the Honors College, where she believes she learns better in the small class environment.

“I’ve loved the experience that I’ve had here,” she says.

Aarushi Arora: Focusing on her thesis

Management major Aarushi Arora says the Honors College was what drew her to Oregon State, and receiving the differential tuition scholarship is making it possible for her to graduate in June with the Honors Baccalaureate. As an international student from New Delhi, India, she can only work at an on-campus job, where all students are limited to 20 hours a week.

“For me, the value of the honors experience was definitely more than the $1,500,” she says. “I’m very grateful that this scholarship exists.”

The scholarship has allowed Arora to cut her work hours a bit so she can dedicate more time during the winter term to her honors thesis, which focuses on the motivations and impacts of corporate social responsibility. It’s a topic she may continue to pursue in graduate school and in her career.

Arora also got to explore the topic through a MECOP internship at Daimler Trucks North America in Portland. In addition to learning about the company’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she worked in project management in the transmissions department using up inventory of an older part, a project that saved the company about $1 million.

Kate Hultberg: Preparing for graduate school

Public health major Kate Hultberg works up to 45 hours a week at two jobs to pay for her education while typically taking 12 to 15 credits per term. Most days she has a couple of hours between classes and heading to work.

“Time management has been a skill that I’ve had to become very, very good at,” she says.

Hultberg received the differential tuition scholarship as a senior and says “it makes a big difference. I probably would have found a way to stay in the Honors College, but it is a huge benefit this year.”

Hultberg, who is graduating in June, credits the Honors College with graduate-level research opportunities — including her honors thesis on water-borne diseases after hurricanes —  that have prepared her for a future working in environmental health and epidemiology.

“The Honors College led me to everything I’ve done to this point,” she says. “I 100% believe that it’s putting me in grad school.”

Experience scholarships provide unique learning opportunities

Oregon State has made experiential learning a priority for all undergraduates, and to help students take advantage of those opportunities, the Honors College established a scholarship fund in 2012. In the 2018-19 academic year, about 90 scholarships of up to $1,000 were awarded, and about 40 scholarships totaling $32,000 have been given so far this year.

Experiential learning opportunities like study abroad or an internship typically have an extra cost that could shut out many students. The experience scholarship can help cover expenses like a plane ticket. Doolen says it also helps equalize support for students across disciplines. Although research in STEM fields often has grant funding that allows students to be paid, research and internships in the humanities or with nonprofits and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad are typically unpaid. With the scholarship, students can receive financial support while they focus on topics they care about and pursue opportunities they might not otherwise have, Doolen says.

Experiential learning can dramatically shape both a student’s current path and future, as it did for Carlee Conner.

Carlee Conner: Transformed by an international internship

Psychology major Carlee Conner always knew they wanted to travel abroad while in college. And they also knew it would be financially challenging. With a short, simple application, Conner received a $1,000 scholarship that helped send them to Africa.

Conner joined 10 students and two faculty for a six-week public health internship in Botswana, working with middle and high school students on sexual and reproductive health. HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and gender-based violence are all significant issues there, and the team used focus groups and interviews to identify community-based solutions.

“That trip was just transformative for so many reasons,” Conner says. “I feel like my future prospects now have a global emphasis. This experience was a catalyst that drove me toward public health and community-based work.”

Conner graduates at the end of winter term. They are considering pursuing a master’s degree in public health in the future, but for now, they want to take a break from being a student and pursue opportunities in the professional world.

“I know I have a lot of really good skills, and the resources provided by the Honors College helped propel me forward from the beginning,” Conner says. “I’m taking away quite a bit of experience, both in and outside of the classroom.”

Donors invest in student access, celebrate student success

For the 2019-20 academic year, the Honors College has awarded 225 donor-funded scholarships totaling $244,000. During last year’s inaugural Dam Proud Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event led by the OSU Foundation, the Honors College raised more than $31,000, most of which went toward experience scholarships. The next Dam Proud Day is set for April 30, and the Honors College will again focus fundraising on experience scholarships.

Doolen says student accessibility matters to many donors. They want to ensure qualified students have access to the unique learning environment and the transformative experiences offered in the Honors College.

That’s true for Penny Atkins ’79 and her husband Gary, who helped establish the differential tuition scholarship fund. A first-generation college student, Atkins says she was fortunate that her parents could pay for her education and wants to help reduce the financial stress on today’s students.

“We want all students, especially underrepresented students, to have a college experience that can make their lives so much more meaningful and successful,” Atkins says.

Wayne von Borstel believes the Honors College experience can change a student’s life — his daughter and son are proof. Both graduated from the Honors College, and being surrounded by other students who “were just phenomenal” motivated them to achieve as well, he says. Von Borstel and his wife Marta established the largest Honors College scholarship, which supports students from The Dalles, Hood River and Sherman County.

“I like to reward excellence,” von Borstel says. “Because when we help the best be their best, it might be amazing what this world becomes. And that’s what I believe the Honors College is about.”

Retired Oregon State physics professor Ken Krane and his wife Paula have supported experience scholarships for several years. They recognize college is a unique time in students’ lives and that the experiences they have can direct their paths in unexpected ways.

“Students will never have another opportunity like this to partake in so many activities without fear of failure,” Ken says. “This is when they are learning what is important to them.”

“We’re very happy to be in the position to make the college experience something that they will always remember,” Paula adds.

The Kranes, who began giving to scholarships in the 1990s, started small and have built up an endowment over time, something they encourage other potential donors to do. They enjoy meeting the students and seeing where they go in college and beyond.

“I think some of the value is that we are seeing what the next generation can become,” Ken says. “We want the next generation and the generation after that to be productive parts of society. A college education is still the best investment we can make for the future.”

Every student deserves to be supported and heard. When they are, the benefits extend from them, throughout the honors community and across the world.


In Response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Honors College has extended the deadline to complete an Honors College Differential Tuition Scholarship for 2020-2021 to April 12th, 2020. Continuing students can apply through ScholarDollars by completing the Honors College application and applying to the “Oregon State University Differential Tuition Scholarship.” All continuing students who wish to be eligible for a tuition scholarship from the Honors College in 2020-2021 must apply by April 12th! Incoming students are not eligible for this scholarship.

We also want to make sure that you are aware of the option of applying for an Honors College Differential Tuition Grant for spring term, 2020. These grants are for students who are experiencing particular difficulties in paying the HC differential tuition. The Honors College does not want inability to pay differential tuition to be the determining factor in whether a student graduates from the college or continues as an honors student. We encourage all students considering withdrawal for financial reasons to submit a grant application here. If you have any questions, please direct them to honors.college@oregonstate.edu or an HC advisor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.