By: Edwina Koch, Staff Writer. Apr. 8, 2013.

            Upon the first day of school you may remember being greeted at the door with a warm smile from Laurie Francis and her team who were hard at work handing out General Scholarship Application forms to students as they walked to their first classes of the semester. Weeks later, after applications began to roll in, some of these same students received an email notifying them that their form may…or may not have been lost. A very vague message was sent out from the application committee, which left students in the dark about what had happened to their scholarship applications.

This email left many questions unanswered, most importantly… “Where is my application?!” In an interview, Laurie Francis, the Executive Director of the Bergen Community College Foundation, strove to clear up some of these discrepancies and student concerns. Although she couldn’t provide exact answers, she did draw a clearer picture of what played out behind the scenes after Ms. Jennings’s passing on November 15, 2012.

With three weeks to spare before a December 7th scholarship ceremony deadline, student affairs urgently inspected Kathy’s office in order to retrieve anything and everything scholarship related. As a result, three boxes of paperwork and multiple envelopes were relocated to the Foundation.

        Laurie states, “[Student affairs] were wonderful. We also asked that her computer be purged of everything and that was scholarship related. They brought it over on a flash drive to us within a week.”

        Here’s where the problem came, however.

        “What had happened was, in the spreadsheet on Kathy’s computer there were names that had started to be entered, but not enough information was inputted in order to find a paper copy to match.” This led to those vague emails being sent to students who “may or may not” have submitted an application. The ambiguous word choice was purposefully chosen because just as the students were left in the dark about what was going on, the staff of the BCC Foundation wasn’t too clear either.

        “We didn’t know if these were people [who applied] from the year before that Kathy hadn’t washed out of the system so we were trying really hard to reach out to each and every student.” It was the committee’s way of giving everyone a fair chance, just in case they had lost applications.

        The good news, however, is that it’s all in the past now. The final deadline for the spring ceremony this current semester was February 8th and this time around, a new “key employee” is taking a hold of the reigns. She goes by the name of Nicole Conklin. Nicole will now be stepping in for Kathy Jennings and she will be using the same screening techniques and excel spreadsheets to review the new batch of applicants for the spring. Nicole was already quite familiar with much of the process though as she had served as a grant employee with the 1-2-3 Connect Program before taking on this new role.

One main concern on many students’ minds is: can disaster strike again? While the team is looking into purchasing a software that can allow them to become more accessible online and less manually intensive, there are a few downsides. One is the cost. Although there are several annual allocations of funds—about $100,000 – 385,000 (fluctuates according to investments) to allocate to students, the  Foundation needs to be frugal when deciding how to spend money, and software can be costly.

Additionally, Laurie and Nicole explained that they also just haven’t found a system that achieves what they are able to achieve by doing it manually. This is because most of the online processes are inhuman. “It’s like a lottery. It can immediately disqualify you due to a single answer to a question. It’s extremely black and white.” All in all, it does not complement the scholarship committee’s overall goal, which is “to give away as much money as possible to as many students as possible.”