Nursing scholarships not awarded due to system failure

By Anthony Kinney, Associate Editor

Professors from Contra Costa College’s nursing department are demanding an overhaul of the college’s scholarship system after students complained of being denied eligibility to nursing-specific scholarships this year.

While some nursing students were left unawarded and had feelings of being cheated, others were auto-selected for scholarships in unrelated career fields.

“They say when something isn’t broke don’t fix it, but this system is obviously broken and needs to be fixed sooner than later,” nursing professor Angela King-Jones said.

She said the program’s biggest issue is the lack of entry for information regarding the hands-on clinical curriculum that disciplines like medical assistant, paramedic and nursing require that isn’t considered criteria when students apply for scholarships with the new program.

“So much work is done in a clinical setting in our department. If that experience isn’t weighed when figuring which students should be awarded for a scholarship, that’s a huge problem.”

King-Jones said most of her department’s students were considered ineligible for the program’s dedicated awards by the online scholarship system because of a conundrum which touts the students as “pre-nursing,” instead of nursing majors.

In lieu of scholarships intended to benefit medical students in their field, nursing majors found themselves awarded with scholarships from different departments including biology, information technology and anthropology.

Financial aid assistant and scholarship coordinator Mia Henderson-Bonilla said the college adopted the innovative online scholarship platform two years ago as an upgrade to the traditional paper form and to provide students with a more organized platform for scholarships.

“The system is still new, so we expected some kinks,” Henderson-Bonilla said. “Change isn’t always easy.”

According to its website,, the AcademicWorks scholarship management platform “introduces a single scholarship website for institutions, making it easy for administrators to promote all available scholarships on campus to the entire student population.”

The website says that through its program each student receives a unique, personalized view of the scholarships that they are most qualified for based off student data.

“Our scholarship management system’s integration with your student information system minimizes the time it takes to complete applications and improves the quality and accuracy of data on each application,” the website boasts.

Henderson-Bonilla said AcademicWorks serves as an one-stop shop for scholarships that depending on criteria, automatically matches applicants with eligible awards from a vast database of academic scholarships. However, its broad and automated selection process leaves wide gaps for error.

Nursing major Pam Macapagal said she was shocked to find she was selected for a scholarship for African-American students after she requested a list of the scholarships the online program automatically applied her for.

“I shouldn’t have even been eligible for that scholarship,” the Filipino nursing major said. “Luckily, I didn’t win it but what if I did? That would’ve be so unfair to the African-American students on the campus.”

Henderson-Bonilla said that her department is currently in talks with the nursing faculty to determine what additional criteria needs to be considered when nursing students apply for scholarships and how to include it in the process.

Her current idea is a separate application process for nursing students seeking scholarships.

“We’re aware that nursing is a unique program that requires special input from professors regarding students’ clinical performance and hours,” she said. “We’re currently working on a solution because we understand their (professors’) and the students’ frustrations.”

Henderson-Bonilla said another possible reason for students’ not receiving scholarships is this year’s spike in scholarship applications. The scholarship coordinator said the financial aid department saw a 21 percent increase in scholarship applications this year.

“We awarded 90 students with scholarships this year. That’s up from last year’s 60 students,” she said. “It was simply more competition out there this time around which could have been a factor.”

King-Jones said she hopes the application process is repaired before scholarship season begins again next spring.