Program offers financial support, literacy programming.

Success grants financial literacy

Senior Sarah Bencivenga was one of many students awarded a Blue Hen Success Grant, which made all the difference in keeping alive her dream for a UD diploma.

It didn’t take long for Sarah Bencivenga to know the University of Delaware was the right fit for her. The Toms River, New Jersey, native was recruited in 2013 to play softball, and by sophomore year, her bio had already included selection to the Dean’s List, Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Rookie team, the CAA Academic Honor Roll and the All-CAA Second Team.

“This was where I wanted to be,” said Bencivenga.

Then Bencivenga got an offer for a softball scholarship at Florida Atlantic University that was too good to pass up, so she transferred. UD was always tugging at her heart, though, and by her senior year at FAU, she realized how much she missed the University’s high-quality academics and yearned to complete her degree as a Blue Hen.

“It wasn’t until I was in Florida that I recognized the value of the education at UD,” Bencivenga said.

She transferred back to campus, which meant having to work hard to catch up on credits—and the costs that came with them. She was close to the finish line, but not having an athletic scholarship, she didn’t know how she would fill the gap financially and graduate.

“I am financially independent and all I had was some money saved up from jobs I held during high school and breaks,” Bencivenga said. “My first semester back at UD, I was taking 17 credits and working to pay expenses. With the combination of savings and my current job, I was able to make it work, but knew that my savings would be exhausted and the next semester may not be possible.”

She then discovered the University’s Blue Hen Success Grant. She applied and got the award, which made all the difference in keeping alive her dream for a UD diploma.

“I’m not sure how I would be graduating this spring from UD without the Blue Hen Success Grant,” Bencivenga said, who will finish in May with degrees in psychology and interpersonal communications.

The Blue Hen Success Grant program provides small awards, ranging from $300 to $3,000, to eligible students like Bencivenga who are nearing graduation but facing minor shortfalls in paying their tuition or fees. Also known as a retention grant, it provides emergency funding so that financial circumstances do not become barriers to graduation.

“The Blue Hen Success Grant program speaks volumes to the direction, purpose and responsibility the University takes to ensure students graduate,” said Carla Lord-Powalski, coordinator of the program, which is managed by the Student Financial Services office.

Give a man a fish, says the well-known proverb, and you have fed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime. In that spirit, the Blue Hen Success Grants program serves as a resource for developing lifelong financial skills. Prior to getting a grant, students must take a free course on budgeting and responsible spending. The program also guides students to the myriad scholarships available and offers workshops throughout the year aimed at increasing students’ fiscal knowledge and responsibility during their academic career and after graduation.

In partnership with various departments and groups on campus, Powalski has counseled over 550 students since the program launched in February 2017. Nearly 30 students have been awarded grants totaling $48,586, keeping them on the path to graduation. Powalksi is also partnering with the University’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations to encourage donations to the program. To date, 337 donors have contributed over $73,000, allowing Blue Hen Success Grants to expand its efforts.

“UD has given me all the tools I need to positively impact the lives of others,” Bencivenga said. “My education and experience will be lasting. Something significant will come from this work.”

 | Photo by Evan Krape | 

Financial Literacy Month events

The Blue Hen Success Grants program will be hosting the following special events for students in April in recognition of Financial Literacy Month.

Financial Wellness Fair: Tuesday, April 10, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., in the Gallery of the Perkins Student Center. Students will enjoy games, food and entertainment as they visit kiosks to learn financial skills. Participants will be able to check loan balances and repayment options, learn what their credit score means and how to improve it, and receive budgeting tools. Experts from Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, Stand By Me, and Sallie Mae will be on hand to present tips and information. Participating students will be given a financial literacy passport, which comes with a chance to win prizes including a Dell laptop, $100 Visa gift card, ice skating passes, bookstore swag and more.

Financial Literacy Mini-Series: Monday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 25, in the Student Financial Services Building lobby. Morning sessions are at 10 a.m.; afternoon sessions are at 12:30 p.m. Students will be introduced to Cash Course, a free online money management resource. Students who complete at least one online activity will be eligible to win a $25 Visa gift card. Refreshments will be provided.

Grad Fair: Wednesday through Friday, April 18-20, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Barnes and Noble UD Bookstore, 83 East Main St. Graduating students will receive information and tools on student loan repayment. Each student who meets with Carla Lord-Powalksi and completes a short quiz will be eligible to win a $50 Visa gift card.