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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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SDSU's Aztec Scholarship Portal has achieved a new high in financial aid awarded. The portal is open April 10-August 25. (SDSU) SDSU's Aztec Scholarship Portal has achieved a new high in financial aid awarded. The portal is open April 10-August 25. (SDSU)

Record-breaking 99.6% of Scholarship Funds Awarded This Year

With help from SDSU’s centralized Aztec Scholarship Portal, the university has achieved a new high in financial aid awarded to students with millions of dollars from generous SDSU donors.
By Aaron Burgin

San Diego State University disbursed nearly every scholarship dollar available to students during the 2022-23 cycle, an accomplishment that has university officials looking to repeat during the upcoming school year when $6 million in aid will be available to enrolled students. 


The Aztec Scholarships portal, launched three years ago to streamline the once-arduous process of searching and applying for scholarships, is credited with helping with the disbursement of the record 99.6% of available scholarship funds. The portal allows students to fill out a single application to apply for all SDSU scholarships. 


The unawarded 0.4% was for scholarships for which there were no eligible applicants, said Kari Hooker, director of the new SDSU Scholarships Office. 


In the cases where there weren’t eligible applicants, the scholarship requirements were very specific, such as a student needing to have a certain major and minor combination or be at a specific point of their master’s dissertation. 


“Our No. 1 priority is to ensure all available funding gets into the hands of our students to support their educational goals,” Hooker said. “Our utilization rate says a great deal about the functionality of Aztec Scholarships, as the portal makes it quick and easy for students to apply, plus truly eligible applicants are filtered to committees for selection.”


Hooker also noted that achieving at least 90% disbursement was a key mandate handed down by SDSU President Adela de la Torre when she took her position in 2018. “Aztec Scholarships has helped us beat that every year since implementation,” Hooker said. 


De la Torre said the near-perfect utilization rate should be a source of pride to the university, as it means that more money than ever is making it to the hands of students. 


“Expanding financial aid and scholarship support to our students has been a vital goal of SDSU and its donor community for years,” de la Torre. 


“It is an important goal that we never want money to stand between a deserving student and their education,” de la Torre said. “This level of support means students are more likely to enter the workforce without the burden of student-loan debt after they graduate, so I am pleased to see the Aztecs Scholars portal and program so effectively connecting the generosity of our donors with students who directly benefit.”


The university’s disbursement rate has climbed more than 30 percentage points since 2016-17 when only 61% of the funds made their way to students. 


“Funding for scholarships has been provided by gifts from donors, so we also want to be sure we are being good stewards of their generous donations,” Hooker said. 


There will be more than $6 million in scholarships available to students during this year’s cycle, open April 10-August 25. 


Hooker, who started at SDSU in November 2016 as a financial aid and scholarship counselor and most recently served as scholarship manager, was tabbed to lead the Scholarships Office, separated from the Office of Financial Aid earlier this year. 


She said her chief priorities will be to maintain and increase the disbursement rate and to ensure that, at some point, every single scholarship dollar will find its way to deserving recipients. 


Hooker also wants to create a series of small scholarship workshops for students to receive one-on-one help finding and winning scholarships from outside organizations, while the office continues to learn best application practices and share that knowledge with students. 


“I am really excited for the opportunity to continue to work on behalf of our students in the new position,” she said.