If you’ve ever taken a break from college for financial reasons, you’re not alone. Many students take semesters off to build up savings by working more midway through their degree.

President Brad Mortensen announced a new scholarship initiative aimed to help students who have few other scholarship options, are taking a break or may have to leave college to work instead of pursuing their studies during his inauguration on Jan. 7.

The new scholarship, CATapult, has funds for students to be distributed by the Financial Aid and Scholarship office after determining the need of the student. The overall goal of this scholarship is to keep students in school by mitigating some of the financial burden college can put upon students.

“Hopefully the scholarship will meet the needs of our students out there who just still find themselves with some type of gap in being able to afford college,” Mortensen said. “We’re trying to make it so that students can not only complete their degrees but do it in a more timely way. ”

Unlike traditional academic scholarships, CATapult will stack alongside other scholarships and may allow students to get some amount of refund. This will be at the discretion of the Financial Aid and Scholarship office and is meant to help students with the financial burdens of books, rent or other expenses that may result in a student no longer being able to attend college.

“It’s designed for student that maybe exhausted an option, but they still need a little bit more because of the cost of textbooks and the cost of living or something else,” Mortensen said. “We’ve had these other conversations about the changes to the scholarship program. This is one tool we hope that will mitigate some of the concerns that folks have had. This will serve more students.”

Mortensen said that there are few parameters around the scholarship. One of the major factors outside of financial need is that the student needs to be making a good amount of progress toward their degree.

Financial need will be determined by the Financial Aid Office by looking at a student’s FASFA and evaluating other factors that may impact a student’s ability to stay at WSU.

“We talked about the need for students as we transition to a four-year scholarship model. Even before I got to the role of president, we talked about what we can do to help,” Mortensen said. “It does move money away from one group of students to another group that’s not being served.”

When Mortensen announced this, he also announced a goal of raising $10 million dollars for this scholarship by July 1, 2021. However, the scholarship will be available before then. Students will be able to talk to the Financial Aid Office as they are looking forward to their next year in college about eligibility for the scholarship.

“I didn’t want to announce this and then say, ‘18 months from now, after the 10 million dollars start to earn interest, that will be the scholarship,’” Mortensen said. “I wanted to make sure we had something right way to help our students now.”

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