Willamette University School of Law announced today that it will end conditional scholarships for future accepted students. All Law School awards will be renewable on the basis of good academic standing. The College of Law is also planning a comprehensive review of the scholarship awards received by current students with a view to partially mitigating the impact of the conditional scholarship form under which they have been accepted.
Over the past two decades or so, financial aid at law schools across the country has increasingly moved toward merit-based scholarships. Conditional scholarships are a form of merit-based assistance, the retention of which is dependent on a student maintaining a certain grade point average above and beyond the academic requirements that apply to all students. As a general historical matter, students who do not comply with the terms of the scholarship lose the award.
As of 2019-20, nearly 43% of law schools, including Willamette, offered some form of conditional award. Dean of the College of Law, Brian Galini, said: “The conditional scholarship system has been an important part of our budget model in the past, but we are becoming increasingly concerned that the consequences of the conditional scholarship system unfairly fall on certain students, including students of color and members of the community. LGBTQ+ and those with increased physical or mental health issues during their academic journey.”
Willamette will replace the Conditional Scholarships with permanent awards; Those are renewable as long as the student maintains good academic standing. In the permanent scholarship system, all students retain their scholarships as long as they meet the core academic criteria applicable to all students. “We hope that this initiative will bring with it more transparency for our current and potential students,” he added. This replacement will immediately affect all incoming students who are accepted and join the class of 2025.
In addition to the future abandonment of conditional scholarships in favor of permanent awards, Willamette has also committed to considering whether she can partially mitigate the impact of the conditional system on current students by offering some permanent scholarships to current students. This review will begin immediately and the comprehensive review is expected to be completed by the end of June. “The task of ending this longstanding practice is a difficult one, but we are committed to promoting transparency, access and equality in legal education,” said Dean Galini. “The abolition of conditional scholarships at our institution is an important step in that direction.”