Students protest after Shaw shifts aid money

Posted August 4, 2015 12:10 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2015 7:00 p.m. EDT

— Shaw University's decision to change how its financial aid money is distributed prompted an outcry Tuesday from students and families.

Dozens of members of the Platinum Sound Marching Band protested outside Shaw's administrative building after President-elect Tashni Dubroy decided to shift some tuition grant money from them, the football team and the men's and women's basketball teams to the Honors College, students who have GPAs of 3.5 or better and the choir.

Dubroy, who took the reins at Shaw on Monday, met with the protesters to explain her actions, which she says are in the best interests of Shaw's financial future.

"I want this to be a teaching moment for everyone," she said. "I have to serve as president for all, not just a slim few."

Band members receive a total of $525,000 in grant funds annually – students referred to the money as scholarships, while Dubroy called them "tuition discounts." The football team receives $550,000, and the men's and women's basketball teams split $500,000. Meanwhile, students with high GPAs receive no scholarships, while those in the Honors College receive only $250 for books, Dubroy said.

"Due to declining enrollment, we can no longer afford that tuition discount," she said, declining to say whether the total pool of grant funds was being cut in addition to being redistributed.

Private support to Shaw would replace the university grants, Dubroy told the protesters, so their overall financial aid packages shouldn't be affected.

The news didn't calm the students, who were upset that the changes came without notice and only days before the start of the 2015-16 school year.

"A lot of us depend on scholarships," said Mizani Gibbs, a rising sophomore from Georgia. "It’s not like we had a year preparation that would give us time to prepare and figure out how to get that extra amount of money."

Gibbs said her mother struggles to put her through college, and the grant money is "an outlet and relief for her."

Charlie Brown, director of the Platinum Sound, sent a letter to Shaw's Board of Trustees complaining about the money shift, prompting Dubroy to issue a memo in response. She noted in the memo that Brown refused her suggestions to boost outside support of the band, while Marcus Clark, Shaw's athletic director, was working on fundraising efforts to provide more scholarships to student-athletes

"Our entire Shaw University family, including students, need to actively participate in raising support for their respective programs. Fundraising is not solely the responsibility of the President of Shaw or the Office of Institutional Advancement," she wrote in the memo.

Dubroy also invited the protesters back on Friday if they are still displeased with their financial aid packages.