Lisa Muzzioli, 42, and her daughter Jessica Thornton, 25, both students at Rogue Community College, say applying for scholarships can be a daunting process. - Bob Pennell

Scholarships go begging

Local organizations have college scholarships up for grabs, but fewer students are grabbing — and the donors are wondering why.

Jackson County Master Gardener Association, the Medford Elks Club and the Ashland Garden Club offer scholarships to Jackson County students, but very few, if any, are applying for them.

"Lots of times a lot of these scholarships just sit there," said Marydee Bombick, a member of the Master Gardener association.

The association offers a $2,500 scholarship to an Oregon State University student from Jackson County studying horticulture. In the past seven years, the association has awarded the scholarship three or four times. Last year, no one from Jackson County applied, so the association opened up the scholarship to students graduating from any Oregon high school, Bombick said.

The Medford Elks Club received half the number of applications this year than in the past. By the Jan. 10 deadline, only four students had applied for the two $600 scholarships. The Elks chose the top three.

"This year they were all so good, we divided the money by three," said Marilee McLaughlin, scholarship committee member.

Similarly, the Ashland Garden Club offers a $1,500 scholarship to a Southern Oregon University junior in environmental studies and a $1,000 scholarship to an Ashland High School student interested in environmental studies. For the $1,500 scholarship, SOU chooses the student, and the club awards the money.

"(Last year) no one came forward to apply," said Jean Arago, president of the Ashland Garden Club. "Students were so busy."

Staff from the environmental studies department had to ask a student to apply, she said. Last year, seven high school students applied for the $1,000 scholarship.

"Students think there are so many applicants," Bombick said.

Bombick said there are several other factors that may prevent students from applying for scholarships. Some may be intimidated, believing the scholarships will go to those more qualified. Others won't apply unless prodded by high school counselors and parents. And when college students ask about financial aid, they are most likely handed a loan application, she said.

Karla Logan, 20, a student at Rogue Community College, said applying for scholarships can be difficult.

"I feel that there is so much of a process to get a scholarship," she said. "Loans are a faster, guaranteed process."

Before attending RCC, Logan took out a $25,000 loan to pay for a year at the Medford Culinary Academy. Now that the money is gone, she works about 40 hours a week to pay for 12 credits.

RCC student Lisa Muzzioli, 42, receives about $4,000 a year from a combination of the Pell Grant, Oregon Opportunity Grant and loans. She said essays are what scare her the most about applying for scholarships.

"There is a lack of confidence in my writing ability," she said.

Other students had similar fears.

"Writing is a huge insecurity for me," said Kathleen Hayes, 20, a freshman at RCC. "Bad grammar and spelling would work against me."

Both RCC and SOU offer an online application that allows students to apply for many scholarships at once.

Leslee Heater, RCC scholarship coordinator, said that last year the college had about 800 students apply for scholarships, and 75 percent received one. The average scholarship was $1,500.

"Students have a preconceived notion that they are not eligible," Heater said.

Teresa Beskow is a Southern Oregon University intern. Reach her at 776-4464 or e-mail

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