Married students struggle to find scholarships

Illustration Monica Lake | Lariat Photographer

Illustration Monica Lake | Lariat Photographer
Monica Lake | Lariat Photographer
By Rebecca Fielder

Julie and R.J. Robinson have been married for six years and are studying at Truett Seminary, both on track to receive a Master of Arts degree in Christian Divinity. They were married while attending college in South Dakota where they earned their undergraduate degrees. They received no scholarships specifically for being married from this school, just as married students studying at Baylor will receive no such scholarships.

When the couple was first married, Julie would write down their combined income and their bill amounts. Sometimes they would be up to $500 short of the amount they owed for bills, but Julie said that God provided for their needs in ways that they would have never imagined, and at the end of the month things would always work out.

“We always just do whatever we need to get by, and I’ve never resented that,” Julie said. “I feel like it’s a good quality to have, because it’s nobody else’s fault if we go in the hole. It’s our own. That’s how I look at it.”

R.J. said he feels that Truett offers good scholarships. He and Julie receive a scholarship offered to students pursuing a Master of Arts degree who are practicing Baptists, which Dr. Grear Howard, director of student services at Truett, said pays about 63.6 percent of tuition.

Students may find benefits to being married while studying at Baylor, but one thing couples won’t find a large amount of at Baylor is extra scholarship money.

Though married students may receive benefits specific to them through a Baylor post-graduate school, such as one offered by George W. Truett Theological Seminary for couples pursuing a Master of Divinity degree, there are no scholarships available through Baylor for undergraduate students on the basis of the students’ marital status.

If a student is a practicing Baptist, married and pursuing the Master of Divinity degree, that student receives an 80 percent tuition-paid scholarship, Julie said. Both members of the couple must be pursuing the Master of Divinity degree, R.J. added, though they do not have to be full-time students.

R.J. doesn’t find it difficult to get endowed scholarships, he said. Endowed scholarships are made from the interest collected from other scholarship donations that donors make to Truett, Howard said. These scholarships have been a huge blessing to the Robinsons, R.J. said. Baylor will also match scholarships from a Baptist student’s church up to $1,000, Howard said. It’s a scholarship that the Robinsons have received multiple times. Julie and R.J. were first pursuing Master of Divinity degrees, which is a 93-hour degree plan, when they came to Truett, and the 80 percent tuition-paid scholarship they received plus endowed scholarships almost covered all their expenses, R.J. said.

Now that they have both changed degree plans to Masters of Arts, a degree plan which requires a minimum of 60 hours, they no longer receive the 80 percent scholarship but receive the smaller one offered to students pursuing a Masters of Art degree. The Robinsons also may no longer receive the church-matching scholarship. This scholarship is only offered to full-time Truett students, Howard said, whereas this semester both Robinsons study as part-time students.

Graduate students, Truett students and couples have to work to make ends meet, R.J. said. Some professors at Truett want students to enroll in no more than 20 hours of work a week with 9-12 credit hours a semester, R.J. said; at which Julie laughed.

“But that for us isn’t even possible,” he said. “I have a part-time job and I work at least 24 and then volunteer at youth.”

R.J. volunteers with the First Baptist Church of Woodway youth group.

Through their undergraduate years and years at Truett, the Robinsons have been the “king and queen of odd jobs,” Julie said. Julie is the youth associate over girls’ ministry for First Baptist Church of Woodway, does student recruiting for Truett, umpires, “house-sits,” and judges speech competitions at schools. Now the Robinsons pay all their bills with part-time work and odd jobs.

“You have to be kind of creative about how you generate income,” Julie said.

For awhile the couple did have a stable income; one of them would go to school part-time and work full-time, the other vice versa. But, because this semester is their last full semester, they’re both going to school full-time, so money is tight for them right now, they said.

“The semester that you’re living in, you’re preparing for the next semester,” R.J. said.

The Robinsons are still paying for loans from their undergraduate education, R.J. said. However, because they live within their means, track money and budget, the couple is currently paying off their undergraduate loans while studying at Truett, he said.

Julie and R.J. only take the loan money they need; not as much as they can get, Julie said.

“Even choosing not to have kids now, or not have a family or pets; it’s geared towards hopefully in the future being able to have kids and not be in as much debt later,” R.J. said. “So we’re looking toward the future. Because a lot of couples break up because of money, and so we try and keep the stress level over money as low as possible, and we talk about everything.”