UT Co-op investment to offer affordable course materials through scholarships

Amirtha Jayakumaran, News Reporter

A new investment through the University Co-op is increasing the affordability of course materials  by providing scholarships to high-achieving, low-to-middle income students.

The investment funds $500 scholarship awards to help recipients with the cost of course materials. Over 1,500 students will benefit from the new program over the next eight years as the University Co-operative Society distributes $10 million in scholarships, according to a press release. Established in 2019, the investment is set to increase the Co-op endowment to $4 million. 

“It’s really a two-part gift,” said Cheryl Phifer, Co-op president and CEO. “The largest part of that is funding course material scholarships, but then we’re continuing to increase the amount of the undergraduate award each year.”

We can cover the cost of many course materials for many students.”

— Cheryl Phifer, Co-op president and CEO

The Co-op currently operates as a nonprofit, Phifer said. Prior to UT expanding its Co-op scholarship opportunities, students would receive a percentage of their purchases as a rebate that could go towards buying academic supplies. However, in recent years, the rebate policy has been largely unused by students.

To expand student access to course material, Phifer said the Co-op established the course material scholarships.

“In an ideal world, if we could, we’d cover the cost of everybody’s course materials, but that’s not realistic at this point in time,” Phifer said. “But we can cover the cost of many course materials for many students.”

The scholarships are mainly intended for students who are not well-represented in financial aid offerings, according to scholarship recipient Kate Burke.

“(UT) wanted to focus on students that still had room in their financial aid packets … but mainly focus on students that came from middle-class families,” Plan II and psychology freshman Burke said. “These families weren’t really represented well with financial aid because … they’re not necessarily able to pay for everything, but on paper, it looks like they can.” 

Students are eligible to receive the scholarship on a yearly basis given the recipient maintains their high-achieving academics, Burke said.

“There’s no strings attached or anything,” Burke said. “If you receive it and you continue (maintaining) your GPA … it’s just going to be continuous.”

Burke said the scholarship relieves the added stress students can feel from not knowing if they can afford the materials they need to succeed in class.

“I’m so grateful to the Co-op for starting and awarding the scholarship,” Burke said. “It’s going to be so helpful to me, and I’m sure to all the other families that receive (it).”