Lizzie Kane ’22

In the past four years, three out of the eight Terry Fellows have also been Belk Scholars, according to various public announcements and Davidson webpages. As of this year, Belk Scholars chosen as Terry Fellows theoretically wind up with $20,000 more than the cost of tuition. 

The Belk Scholars — eight of whom are chosen per class year — receive a free ride to Davidson, as well as two $3,000 grants for on- or off-campus learning experiences. The Terry Fellowships are awarded to two sophomores in the spring, and these students gain $10,000 towards their junior and senior years’ tuitions — for a total of $20,000, a new addition this year — as well as a $3,000 “special opportunity” stipend.

Full disclosure: I was a finalist for the Terry Fellows program this year, as well as a semifinalist for the Belk. I did not receive either scholarship. One might think that I wrote this piece out of disappointment about not earning the scholarships. Feel free to think that, but if one looks at my record as a journalist, I believe it reveals that I write to shed light on stories that might otherwise go untold, not to fuel my own agenda.

When I asked Gardner Ligo — the Director of Merit Programs at Davidson — where the extra tuition money goes, she declined to comment, citing concerns with my intentions. As a result, I uncovered facts through other means, except for one: Where does the extra $20,000 go for Belk Scholars who also earn a Terry Fellowship?

Dr. Chris Alexander, head of the Terry program, noted that the college has a “cost-of-attendance calculation,” which ensures that a student’s scholarship cannot exceed the price of tuition. He added that the college makes “adjustments” to ensure this. I believe what he means is that those $20,000 return to either the Belk Endowment or the Terry Endowment — as these two endowed funds can only serve their specified purposes — but I cannot be certain based on the information he shared. 

Each time a Belk Scholar receives a Terry Fellowship, $20,000 of available merit aid does not go to students over the course of the program. Even though the money eventually serves students, as the award goes back into one of the two endowments, I think the rules of merit giving should be adapted. Within the last four years, three Belk Scholars have received the Terry Fellowship. If the next four years follow the same pattern, $60,000 of additional merit aid won’t be awarded to worthy Davidson students. And who knows how many other Belk/Terry students are out there, as the programs have been around for decades.

As Dr. Alexander noted, the Terry program is more about the “relationships and growth opportunities” than the financial support. The program has more than 100 alumni, a network that I’m sure is useful to many. 

Nonetheless, $20,000 is no small amount of money. If the Terry committee believes that a sophomore Belk Scholar meets the qualifications for the program, one student could be chosen without securing the money for tuition, while also awarding the fellowship to two non-Belk students. The cohort of Terry students would then increase by one student. This addition does not seem like a significant difference.

If the college adapts the program this way, it would ensure that the $20,000 of merit aid is allotted through the Terry Fellowships every year, instead of putting it back into an endowment.

The college would have to consult the Terry family in order to make this change, but I hope the family would recognize the flaw and modify the program stipulations accordingly.

I’m not saying that Belk Scholars aren’t great candidates for the Terry Fellowship; they are. I’m saying that Davidson needs to spread the wealth. Belk Scholars have comprehensive funding, as well as extra money for special projects and/or opportunities. They also have a network of around 240 people; this is a rough calculation based on how long the scholarship has been around.

While I have noticed this one example of students with full rides being able to earn more merit aid than the cost of tuition, there could be other examples at Davidson out there.

Kudos to the Belk Scholars and the Terry Fellows for being well worth the merit aid they receive. But starting this year, every time a Belk Scholar gets a Terry Fellowship, $20,000 of additional merit aid can go to other qualified candidates over the course of the program. Let’s make this happen.

This article was updated on April 15th, 2020. The article originally stated that Terry tuition aid was given before this year.