Last October, students led a Town Hall meeting in Room 111 after a period of student unrest over recent changes at Cogswell. Students brought up concerns about the rescinding of 24-hour access, lack of facilities and resources to work on campus, and more. One question, in particular, struck a familiar tone to students.
“I am a new student at this school, and when I came here, there were promises of scholarships [on the website],” said CS student Kathryn Law at the meeting, “and that if you get on the eSports team, you get a full-ride scholarship, which was advertised to me.”
Law, a freshman in Cogswell’s Overwatch A-team, spoke to The Cogswell Chronicle to elaborate on the situation. “This summer, I heard about this college, mostly looking at the website online. I was checking things out and seeing how affordable it would be,” she says. “One of the selling points was a giant ad for eSports, and that they promised a full-ride scholarship to people on the team.” To Law, it was revolutionary for a school to make such an offer. When she toured the school, she clarified the scholarship process with the admissions department (Law did not wish to share the name of the employee who answered her questions), who told her that there are full-ride scholarships for members of the A-team and partial scholarships for those on B-team.
Upon the beginning of the semester, she tried out and made it to the Cogswell Dragons’ B-team, before eventually landing a spot in A-team. At the time of the interview, she shares that there hasn’t been any money, follow-up, or explanation.
According to Forbes, in 2018, eSports is anticipated to grow to a near-billion dollar industry, a 38% increase in just one year. The inaugural year of the Overwatch League, for example, has attracted more than ten million unique viewers with an average audience of almost 300,000 per minute.
Cogswell’s previous administration launched the college’s eSports program to be a part of the growing industry and capitalize on its success. According to alum Jacob Levine, one of the founding members of the eSports club, the original plans were to open up a scholarship program in order to attract incoming high school students to attend the college. “The goal was to recruit highly skilled players to the college in order to play on the teams,” says Levine. During its early days in 2016, he spoke with multiple staff members of Cogswell, had regular meetings with former Professor Albert Chen, former Chief Financial Officer Ken Banks, Dean Jerome Solomon, Financial Controller Sean Porter, and former Director of Community Relations John Duhring. He also shared that he felt like the effort was a “publicity grab,” the same way college sports programs recruit students.
Levine shares that the plans included both partial and full-ride scholarships which depended on the players’ skill level for both Overwatch and League of Legends teams. He also shares that there were plans for up to six full-ride scholarships, but these details were never ironed out.
Years later, even with multiple changes in Cogswell’s administration, these scholarships would continue to be advertised to prospective students, but the process continues to be vague and the information is inconsistent. Andre Hines, a DAA student also on the A-team, tells the Chronicle that he has been on the team for two years without ever receiving a scholarship. Hines believes that there is a larger focus on advertising the scholarships to incoming students rather than current members of both teams. “The discussion and advertising of the scholarship[s] to incoming students seem unfair to people who’ve been on the team longer,” Hines says.
A staff member of Cogswell’s Financial Aid office, who asked not to be named, revealed that there are no full-ride eSports scholarships for members of the A-team. They did share, however, that there were talks in the past for one potential scholarship, though it was never received by any student.
Currently, Cogswell’s website advertises a new eSports scholarship worth $4000, with a prerequisite that the recipient also applies and receives the Dragon Scholarship, worth $1000, is recruited to the A-team, and maintains a 3.0 GPA or above. Because of Cogswell’s two-scholarship limit per student, eSports scholarship recipients are eligible to receive only $5000 in scholarships per year.
Cogswell Chief Academic Officer Dr. Brian Shepard tells the Chronicle that when it comes to retracing what’s been promised, he “doesn’t know that the [administration] has an answer,” though they “fully intend” for such scholarship to exist. The eSports scholarship has been discussed by Dr. Shepard, Director of Game Design & Development Ricardo Kayanan, Vice President of Admissions Sherri Stein, and Chief Executive Officer Charles Restivo. They are in the process of fine-tuning the scholarship, including details such as the protocol to decide how a student becomes eligible for such scholarship, and requirements on GPA and performance.
“I know that there was a gross miscommunication on some level about who, what, when, how . . .” says Dr. Shepard. “We’re trying to resolve it, even though I don’t know enough to figure out what happened.”
Moving forward, Dr. Shepard promises that Cogswell is trying to make sure that there is “a fair process that is transparent.” He also shares that they are aware of the miscommunication that might have occurred during the period of time when the administration began to shift. “[We know] students most likely were told these scholarships were open, so we’re trying to piece together one that would have been based on what criteria at the time,” he says.
Shepard assures us that there has been “a great deal of activity” in the last month or so about scholarships in general, and that “wheels are turning” on other scholarships, such as those for veterans.
According to Cogswell’s website, “a maximum of two different undergraduate scholarships may be awarded to eligible students” and “if a student is eligible for multiple scholarships, the two scholarships that are most beneficial to the student will be awarded.” There are many scholarships advertised, including some focusing on diversity, such as scholarships for students age 65 years or older, Dream Act recipients, and Native American students. The eSports scholarship rests high on top of the list and is one of two worth the most at $4000.
Students like Law are still enrolling at Cogswell based on the information presented to them as prospective students, which can be misleading. Many students report hearing misinformation during tours from some members of the school’s admissions team.
While many students see Cogswell’s eSports scholarship program as an opportunity for the Admissions Department to boost enrollment at Cogswell, Dr. Shepard says that advertisements of eSports and its scholarship have not to lead to such boost, but he doesn’t see this as a negative. “Quite honestly, we’ve been so sporadic about it,” he says. “You have to have consistency in approach before you can make a determination of whether it’s working or not, and I don’t think we’ve done that.”
The fate of the eSports scholarship still remains unknown, as the college prepares its upcoming budget. One thing is for certain, however: whatever the fare of the scholarship, the administration must be honest and transparent about it.