Piece by Piece

How SPU students pay for college

INTERVIEWS BY Julia Siemens | PHOTOS BY John Crozier

If you’ve looked at the average cost of a university education and said, “There’s no way I can afford that,” you’re not the only one. Many of our students thought that about Seattle Pacific University at one point. Then financial aid packages arrived in the mail.

We help administer $100 million in aid — and for 2014–15, that meant an average financial award of $31,052 per student. For 2015–16, we’ve upped our merit scholarships to further help you academic all-stars.

Here are six real SPU students, who reveal how their financial aid awards shake out. Awards vary, and are determined when you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Once FAFSA has determined how much your family can afford to pay out of pocket, SPU’s Student Financial Services office helps find ways to fund the rest of your education. 

TJ Sawyer
Sophomore TJ Sawyer
BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION MAJOR

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarships and grants, other scholarships and grants, employment, and loans.

SPU scholarships?
Deans’ Scholar Award (currently at $12,000)

Who helped you figure out the financial aid process?
The Internet. I also reached out to anyone I thought would help.

Other notable scholarships?
College Bound Scholarship

Is college worth the cost?
People will say, “Bill Gates didn’t go to college.” Yeah, but you’re not Bill Gates. In two years, I have seen a stark contrast between my friends who are in college and those who are not. College broadens your perspective.

What do you want to do in the future?
I want to be a singer/ songwriter/producer in the music industry, and I believe SPU can help me get there.

Campus involvement?
I am involved in several clubs, and I am a core officer for Ante Up, the hip-hop club.

Why did you decide to take out loans?
As a student who was motivated to put myself through college independently, I spent a lot of time going over my financial aid and my possible options. It took a lot to realize that loans, though intimidating, could be seen as an investment. If at the end of your academic pursuit, you know you will be able to pay off any outstanding debt, you should go for it.

Meykia Smith
Senior Meykia Smith
PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarships and grants, other scholarships and grants, employment, family contribution, and loans.

SPU scholarships?
Rosser-Danielson Scholarship for Forensics (amounts vary)

Work/work study?
I am the lab manager for the Lustyk Women’s Health Lab here on SPU’s campus. For my work-study award, I am employed at a nonprofit, which gives grants for disabled individuals who need assistive technology devices. My job has confirmed my desire to get my master’s in social work.

Why did you get involved with SPU’s debate team?
I competed in debate all four years of high school. When I found out that SPU has a team that participates in intercollegiate speech and debate tournaments, I joined. I can’t escape the debate bug.

What are some of the topics you debate about?
Just recently I discussed whether or not college professors should have tenure. It’s really interesting debating about ISIS and the Middle East, and then you get random topics like Batman versus Superman.

What did you think when you got your award letter in high school?
I didn’t really know what it was. I sat down with a guidance counselor, and she showed me the ropes — who was offering me the most bang for my buck. And it was SPU.

What do you wish you knew in high school about paying for college?
I wish I took the scholarship process more seriously. I would see a small scholarship, and think “$200 isn’t going to do anything.” I didn’t want to take the time, but every single dollar counts.

Dylan Marashi
Senior Dylan Marashi
BIOCHEMISTRY MAJOR

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarship, employment, and family contribution.

SPU scholarship?
President’s Scholarship (currently at $18,000)

Work?
I am a full-fledged farmer in North Dakota during the summer months. I’ve found that I love bucking hay, harvesting crops, and stewarding cattle, even though workdays can easily stretch to 16–18 hours. I work enough in the summer that I don’t have to work during the school year.

Memorable moments on the farm?
Once I almost got stampeded by 50 cattle.

Research and volunteer work?
At SPU, you’ll probably find me wearing chinos, a lab coat, and goggles as I spend countless hours in Assistant Professor of Chemisty and Biochemistry Wade Grabow’s lab. I’m helping him with research related to destroying prostate cancer cells. I also volunteer as a student ministry coordinator in my residence hall and do medical volunteer work, helping with free heart screenings at high schools.

What do you want to do in the future?
I want to be a cardiologist.

What did you think when you got your award letter in high school?
I don’t think I was as ecstatic or as excited as some other students, since my parents were able to help me pay for SPU. I am so grateful. Anytime I get an opportunity, I try to thank my parents.

Yisel Navarro
Junior Yisel Navarro
ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING MAJOR

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarships and grants, other scholarships and grants, employment, and loans.

SPU scholarships?
Transfer Engineering Scholarship (currently at $10,000)

Work/work study?
I was an office worker at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (work study) and a receptionist at a salon. Those jobs were great because I could get my homework done when I had downtime. I’ve just started a paid internship at Seattle City Light, where I will get to use my engineering skills.

What are your plans for repaying your loans?
Right now, I try to pay off the interest regularly. I feel confident that I’ll be able to make the payments after I graduate.

Who helped you figure out the financial aid process?
My sister, who is three years older.

What did you think when you got your award letter?
I thought I wasn’t going to be able to pay for school! At community college, I had all of my tuition covered through state grants. But as I crunched the numbers, I realized I could make it work by taking out loans.

Best advice you received?
Don’t slack on applying for FAFSA. You can get more money the earlier you apply.

Best part about studying engineering at SPU?
At SPU, I know everyone in the program. It’s not intimidating to ask someone for help, and it makes studying a lot easier. Even though SPU’s tuition looks expensive, it’s worth it when you see how much faculty members care about your success.

Skyler Muchmore
Sophomore Skyler Muchmore
BIOLOGY MAJOR

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarships and grants, other scholarships and grants, employment, loans, and family contribution.

SPU scholarships?
Deans’ Scholarship (currently at $12,000), SPU Grant (amounts vary)

Work study?
I work at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, which strives to eliminate the world’s most devastating infectious diseases. It’s a great company that understands I’m a student and occasionally need random time off for midterms and finals — and they gave me a bus pass on top of that!

Why work?
The more I work now, the less I’ll have to pay later. It also helps with buying textbooks.

What did you think when you got your financial aid award letter in high school?
It was a lot more than I thought it would be. When you look at the tuition price, it’s this big number. But my award made it a lot smaller.

What advice do you have about paying for college?
It’s not going to be anywhere near as bad as you think. Make sure you fill out your FAFSA correctly, because there’s tons of money sitting in that, too. Apply, apply, apply for scholarships. The weirder, the better.

What’s the strangest scholarship you have?
I found a scholarship on a can of Coke that said, “Text this number to get a $1,000 scholarship” — and I got it.

Abbie Person
Senior Abbie Person
INTEGRATED STUDIES (ELEMENTARY EDUCATION) MAJOR WITH A SOCIAL STUDIES CONCENTRATION

Main ways you pay for college?
SPU scholarships and grants, other scholarships and grants, employment, loans, and family contribution.

SPU scholarships?
President’s Scholarship (currently at $18,000), Alumni Scholarship (currently at $3,000), Ministry Scholarship (currently at $3,000), SPU Grant (amounts vary)

Work study?
I work in the Office of Safety and Security on campus.

Campus involvement?
This year, it has been minimal since most days I am student teaching. In past years, I’ve been part of Urban Involvement and was secretary for the MuKappa Club (for missionary kids).

What advice do you have about paying for college?
Keep your eyes open for scholarships even as a college student.

How many scholarships did you apply to?
About a dozen, and I received about 10.

How do you make the scholarship applications less daunting?
I always saved a copy of my essays, or even just answers to questions, because I could usually tweak them for each scholarship application.

Who helped you figure out the financial aid process?
My dad. It was not that he already knew everything, but he was willing to sit down and help me figure it out. Each year, he kept encouraging me that I was getting good aid, and it was worth the investment.

Is college worth it?
SPU has so much to offer. This involves growth as a person, which goes beyond academic knowledge.