A closer look at Leander ISD Class of 2018 scholarships

Public statements by Leander ISD officials might give the impression recent graduates were awash with scholarships and funds for college. On June 11, 2018, Leander ISD published the following on its Community Relations website:

“Congratulation to the more than 2,700 Leander ISD graduates! Together, this incredible group of students were awarded more than $55 million in scholarship offers.”  

Leander ISD Superintendent Dan Troxell included the following in his June 6, 2018 column congratulating the Class of 2018:

“Our more than 2,500 graduating seniors boast an impressive resume of academic achievement, including 26 National Merit Semi-Finalists, 75 National Merit Commended Students and 65 National Hispanic Scholars and Recognized Students. An astounding eight students made a perfect score on their ACT exam, and the total reported scholarship money exceeds $55 million!”

That averages out to over $22,000 per graduating senior, or over $20,000 if using the 2,700 graduates figure.  So, what is the actual distribution of scholarship offers to the Class of 2018?  The following details were subsequently requested from Leander ISD via Public Information Request:

  • all college scholarships awarded
  • the number of  students awarded scholarships
  • the total amount of scholarships awarded to each student recipient
  • a description and basis of each scholarship awarded
  • the name of the high school of each student awarded scholarship(s)
  • if public, the name of each student who was awarded scholarship(s)
  • a listing of scholarships accepted
  • a listing of scholarships declined

Also requested was whether Leander ISD was distinguishing between scholarships earned and scholarships offered.

The Leander ISD Public Information department initially replied with the following statement:

““The District has no responsive information to your request.  I have been informed that the District does not collect or has access to this type of information”

This prompted a follow-up request for public information on August 10, 2018, citing Dr. Troxell’s June 6 column and the announcement by the Leander ISD Communications Department regarding the $55 million in scholarships:

“Leander ISD obviously has data to substantiate the above public statement. Please provide an electronic file(s) containing all substantiating documents pertaining to the $55 million in scholarship offers awarded.  The data should include, but not be limited to:

  • all college scholarships awarded
  • the number of  students awarded scholarships
  • the total amount of scholarships awarded to each student recipient
  • a description and basis of each scholarship awarded
  • the name of the high school of each student awarded scholarship(s)
  • if public, the name of each student who was awarded scholarship(s)
  • a listing of scholarships accepted
  • a listing of scholarships declined”

August 17, 2018 Leander ISD’s College and Career Pathways Department offered the following in response to  inquiry about the scholarship award breakdown:

“Scholarship awards are rarely reported directly to high school campuses and is information owned by the student. This information is voluntarily self-reported to counselors as schools prepare for graduation but students are not asked to indicate the awards they accept or refuse. Students are asked to report the scholarships they are offered as a way to “brag” on the graduating class. At graduation, the total dollar amount offered to students is announced as a class. At most campuses the majority of the students choose not to report scholarship information. Students are told the individual amount of scholarships offered will never be reported as many students fear if this information were to be made public they may not be considered for future scholarships. “

The above response only generated more questions and failed to provide the requested information.  If “ the District does not collect or has access to this type of information”, how is it possible to know that “most campuses the majority of the students choose not to report scholarship information”?

On August 20, another Public Information Request was submitted to Leander ISD:

“Please provide a description of the method/mechanism by which students self-reported their scholarship offers/awards, when they reported them, and to whom.”

On September 4, the College and Career Pathways Department offered the following:

“Each campus ask students to voluntarily provide their information to the counseling office. Some students submit by email, other submit paper copies. Each campus has their own process that will work for them.

Total Scholarship Money Awarded: This is voluntarily reported by students to their counselors. The totals below are the amount offered and not what they accept. Many students do not report their scholarship information to the District.

CPHS: $9,500,000

LHS: $3,947,615

RHS: $7,377,996

VRHS: $11,768,090

VHS: $22,819,603

NHHS: not available

LISD Total: $55,413,304″

This generated the following request for clarification:

“Based on the LISD’s responses to the other questions, it appears there is no uniform process for students to report what was offered, and no way for LISD to validate those offers.

“The response to you from the College and Career Pathways Department (see your August 17, 2018 email), “ At most campuses the majority of the students choose not to report scholarship information…” indicates more than 50% of the seniors on at least three of the five campuses with a graduating class  choose not to report scholarship information.

“Put another way, a majority of students on no more than two campuses report their scholarship offers, and only a minority of students at three or four campuses report scholarship offers.

“Please provide the total number of students from each campus whose scholarship offers were included in each total for that campus, as well as the total number of graduating seniors from each campus.

Leander ISD’s Director of the College and Career Pathways subsequently provided the following on September 26th:

Campus Total Offers Reported Number of Students
whose scholarship offers are included in total
Number of Graduates
CPHS $9,500,000 123 451
LHS $3,947,615 67 533
RHS $7,377,996 80 550
VRHS $11,768,090 146 551
VHS $22,819,603 169 537

Based upon the above final response to the original Public Information Request, combined with other publicly available data, following is a partial breakdown of scholarship and graduation rates for the Leander ISD Class of 2018:

Leander ISD Class of 2018 Scholarship Breakdown
High School Campus Offers Reported Number of Students
with Offers
Included in Total
Avg Scholarship
Total per Reporting Student
Number of
Graduating Seniors
Percentage of
Graduating Seniors Reporting
Scholarships (offers)
Senior Counts as
of November 2017
Graduation
Rate
Cedar Park $9,500,000 123 $77,236 451 27.27% 475 95%
Leander $3,947,615 67 $58,920 533 12.57% 564 95%
Rouse $7,377,996 80 $92,225 550 14.55% 596 92%
Vista Ridge $11,768,090 146 $80,603 551 26.50% 554 99%
Vandegrift $22,819,603 169 $135,027 537 31.47% 540 99%
Totals $55,413,304 585 $94,724 2,622 26.95% 2,729 96%
*Based on self-reporting by students. No breakdown is available on scholarships actually accepted. It is unknown how many students received scholarship offers of any amount but did not report them the offer to Leander ISD. 
Also unknown is the actual, cumulative total of scholarship opportunities/offers for a given student. Ex: A single student named a National Merit ® Scholar  can easily accumulate scholarship offers exceeding $500,000, even upwards of $1M depending on the number and names of universities to which the student applies. Obviously, the student can only accept offers from and attend one school. There were 26 National Merit®  Semifinalists for the Class of 2018 across five Leander ISD high schools. 

 

Copyright © 2018 Don Stroud