Cal-U freshman out $10,000 after scholarship was taken away unexpectedly

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Days after starting college at California University of Pennsylvania, a local freshman learned she lost a $10,000 scholarship.

The student, Sarah Seader, told WPXI that she spent months applying for scholarships to pay for college, including the scholarship from the Washington County Community Foundation.

The scholarship was granted in March, but recently rescinded.

“I was freaking out, panicking,” Seader said. “March through the beginning of August this was fine and then all of a sudden Aug. 25 they’re like ‘we’re taking the money back even though we already wired it to you.’ It’s just unbelievable honestly.”

The money was sent directly to the university, but two days after the start of the semester, Seader learned that it had been taken back.

The Washington County Community Foundation says the donor deemed Seader ineligible after-the-fact, because she got her high school diploma from a Pennsylvania cyber school. Seader said she was upfront about attending cyber school and does not understand why her eligibility suddenly changed.

Betsie Trew, president of the foundation, said that anonymous donors set the eligibility requirements for the scholarship money they hand out. Trew said the pandemic changed the way scholarships are awarded, and some donors make exceptions for cyber school. But others, like this donor, do not.

“Homeschool kids were okay, but cyber kids were not. [The donor] drew the distinction and it surprised me that they made the distinction,” Trew said. “At the end of the day we manage scholarships that are controlled by donors and they did not want to support a child that was going to PA cyber school. Our hands were tied.”

Lisa Seader, Sarah’s mother, says the blame should be on the Washington County Community Foundation because they manage the scholarship and they should have been aware of the circumstances before it was awarded.

Sarah said she is now worried that other students will have their scholarships pulled.

“Are you going to take it from another kid next time and just say ‘here you get it’ and then ‘surprise, after classes start we’re taking it back?’ Is this same thing going to continue to happen?”

Seader is now applying for a work-study program and looking into other options to pay for her winter and spring semesters.