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GBHEM Scholarships helps students thrive despite obstacles

August 16, 2023

Julia Tippen’s college career may have been temporarily interrupted by a pandemic. That wasn’t going to stop the recent university graduate from making the most of her opportunity, though—not even close.

Heading into the second half of her freshman year at New Orleans’ Dillard University, one of the) 11 United Methodist Black College Fund schools, Julia already was beginning to forge the relationships with friends and professors that would make her four years at Dillard University a happy success.

But then COVID hit mid-semester. Julia headed back home to Dallas, heartbroken to leave the joys of college life—but overjoyed that she was even getting a university education. That she was able to attend at all was, by her account, due to the scholarships she received from  the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s (GBHEM) scholarship program. Julia, who graduated from Dillard University in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication, received several scholarships during her four years there—the Alice Davage Award, the UM Allocation Award, the Dr. & Mrs. Davage Award and the WICKE Award.

The decision to attend Dillard University (aside from the financial considerations) was an easy choice for Julia. A lifelong Methodist, she grew up at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Actively involved in multiple church ministries up through high school, Julia only really considered United Methodist affiliated institutions in her college search, primarily Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).With that focus in mind, GBHEM Scholarships truly did make the difference for her.

“I can say with certainty that I would not have been able to afford to attend Dillard University without the generous support of GBHEM and their donors,” Julia said.

GBHEM scholarships are even more important for students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), who on average depend more financial aid than students from non-HBCUs.

According to a report from the Center for Responsible Lending, students from HCBUs graduate with an average debt burden of more than $32,300, which is 19 percent higher than the average debt of students from non-HBCUs.

“HBCU students receive less institutional aid and are more likely to take out loans than their peers at non-HBCU institutions,” Christelle Bamona, researcher at CRL and co-author of the report, said in a release on the organization’s website. “While President Biden’s recent historic student loan relief plan will benefit millions of federal student loan borrowers, including HBCU borrowers, policymakers must now work to reverse the systemic underfunding of HBCUs and increase the purchasing power of the Pell Grant, among other reformative measures.”

Adding to that complex situation, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University are unconstitutional, making financial situations for students like Julia more precarious. 

Fortunately for Julia, the process of applying for and receiving scholarships from GBHEM helped alleviate her financial burdens.  She points to her experience with GBHEM’s Director of Scholarships Marcie Bigord as a particular bright spot.

“Marcie was an incredible resource,” Julia said. “In my first year, I thought her email was just a computer program following up, but then she started responding to my questions and I knew it was a real person behind the messages. 

“She was always fast helping me out, and she made sure to remind me of deadlines and any changes to the application process that I might have missed when resubmitting my application,” Julia added. “I also was sometimes concerned about when funds would be released, and she always reassured me and made sure everything was perfect.”

“My church and family friends all shared that GBHEM was a very good source for scholarships. My experience applying for and receiving scholarships was a very positive [one]. This was a life-changing experience, and I am very thankful.” If you would like to know more about GBHEM Scholarships program or would like to apply, please visit

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