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Praying and paying for college

Student benefits from PC(USA) support ‘to an immense degree’

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

Mel Smith is inside the Presbyterian Chapel of Austin College in Sherman, Texas. (Photo contributed by Mel Smith)

Now is the time eager applicants await their college acceptance letters. Individuals and families start to consider not just what institutions to attend but also how they will realistically pay for them. Churches around the country add these young adults and their families to their prayer lists and prepare to celebrate the members graduating in May or June. But for many seeking a degree, the PC(USA) can do more than just pray for their acceptance and ongoing education.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency provides scholarships to up to 100 college students per year. The basic scholarship award is $4,000. There is also a $2,000 Supplemental Award for People of Color.

For Mel Smith, college has been a time of expanding their faith, theology and commitment to a more just world. As a member of a PC(USA) church, Smith applied for and received the Presbyterian Grant for Undergraduates to help with the expenses of their higher education.

At Austin College in Sherman, Texas, Smith has gained a better understanding of their faith and what it means to be Presbyterian. “My faith has encountered a more diverse array of beliefs than I was exposed to in my hometown. This exposure has allowed me to better understand what I believe,” said Smith, who describes their hometown church as having very few people their age and appreciates the larger Presbyterian community at college where they feel welcome. For Smith, being a part of the PC(USA) means “I am a part of a church that is open to people of all stripes and beliefs, working together to make the world a kinder place.”

After graduation, Smith hopes to further their education through graduate school and then “find a place in the world where I can help my community change for the better.” Concerns about food insecurity and human exploitation are Smith’s highest priorities. “Food is such a fundamental need,” said Smith, who enjoys volunteering in organizations concerned with equitable food distribution. “It’s a really good way to make space at God’s table for everyone.”

As part of a volunteer project for a local food ministry, Mel Smith painted grapes on its wall mural. (Photo contributed by Mel Smith)

If there was one thing Smith could change about the world, it would be to end human exploitation. “It serves as the root of so much injustice in the world,” Smith said, “and I feel the world would be a much better place should we love and respect our fellow humans like God told us.”

Smith also said that “the PC(USA) scholarship facilitated the furthering of my education to an immense degree.”

Applications for the program are open for 2024–25. PC(USA) church members seeking a first associate or bachelor’s degree and attending an accredited college or university in the United States full-time in 2024–25 are eligible. To simplify the process, there is a single application for new and renewing applicants in English, Spanish and Korean.

Announcements for 2024–25 awards will be made after Aug. 1, 2024.

If you would like to become a member of the selection team, visit

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