Octavio Brindis thought he had it made when he won a scholarship funded by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates to help him go to college tuition-free.
The second of five children of Mexican immigrants, Brindis has a father who works in a wine company warehouse and makes less than $40,000 a year. His mother is unemployed. Yet, financial-aid officials at Boston College, where it costs about $60,000 to attend, told Brindis he needed to pay about $2,500 a year -- part of a mandated student contribution. Lacking the cash, he took out $5,000 in loans over two years, he said.
The aid officer “would tell me that I was contributing such a small percentage to what my education costs, but she didn’t understand that small percentage was a much bigger percentage to my family,” Brindis, 21, said.
Scholarship programs funded by some of the nation’s biggest donors, including Gates, Coca-Cola Co. and Michael Dell, are taking aim at practices used by wealthy colleges, such as Boston College, which has a $1.65 billion endowment, Amherst, with a $1.64 billion fund and Barnard, with $216.4 million. They say the schools hurt poor and minority students by rescinding aid once they find out they have awards from outside sources or by banning use of the funds to cover some student contributions. Donors complain that, in some cases, their gifts are boosting a school’s bottom line rather than the students they seek to help.