Despite the Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to admit transgender members and the dissolution of Hillsdale College’s Eagle Scout GOAL program last year, the financial aid office is still offering at least nine merit-based scholarships for scouts.
“Going forward, it may be a factor for a new donor who sees that Hillsdale has that cohort of scholarships that benefit Eagle Scouts,” Director of Financial Aid Rich Moeggenberg said. “I’m only guessing it’s a change that may not be as commensurate as much to the mission of our college. But there has been zero discussion about the Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision.”
On Jan. 30, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in boys-only programs and that they would identify the children by the gender specified on their Boy Scout application.
According to Moeggenberg, private donors have provided funds to finance scholarships for Eagle Scouts for the last 10 years, and there have been no complaints in the wake of the organization’s decision to not limit membership based on gender identity.
This semester, there are 74 Eagle Scouts on campus, making up nearly 11 percent of the male student body. Junior David Van Note is one of them. Van Note reached the rank of Eagle Scout at 15 years old and said he doesn’t see the Boy Scouts of America’s most recent decision as a conflict to either the school or the organization as a whole.
“I don’t have too much of a problem with it,” Van Note said. “When you look at the Boy Scout oath and the Boy Scout law, anybody of any gender could follow exactly what they say. I don’t necessarily see it conflicting.”
While the Boy Scouts of America’s decision may not be a factor on campus, a previous requirement for the scholarships, however, was that students stay active in scouting by volunteering at local Boy Scout troops through the college’s GOAL program, which was disbanded last year.
“The criterion for those scholarships did state that preference was given to students who are active with scouting in the Hillsdale community,” Moeggenberg said. “That part is missing now, but the scholarships are still here, and they’re helping our students. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.”
Now that the GOAL program is gone, the college selects Eagle Scouts for scholarships based on merit achievements, which include maintaining a 3.0 GPA at Hillsdale.
Moeggenberg said the scouting scholarships led to the formation of the GOAL program. But GOAL Program Director senior Alexis Garcia said the connection with local troops fizzled, because of a lack of volunteers as well as active service opportunities.
“We would have volunteers go and help scouts, and they would just be sitting there during the meetings,” Garcia said. “If there isn’t really a need in the community, then we figured it would be better to allocate GOAL resources to other places.”
Moeggenberg said the majority of the scholarships focus on academic and merit-based qualifications but help identify candidates based on their previous involvement as an Eagle Scout in high school.
Van Note, however, said he believes the GOAL program should be reinstated not only to help the community but also as a requirement for the Eagle Scout scholarships.
“I think they should include the GOAL program back as a scholarship requirement,” Van Note said. “Some people achieved Eagle simply because they want to put it on a resume not so much that they loved the experience. The GOAL program would force them to be active and would point out the people who really want to be a part of it again.”
Garcia said the previous leader of the GOAL program, Ben Strickland, graduated in 2016 and that if there were student and community interest, the GOAL Program would consider trying it out again.
“If there is an initiative to start it back up, we would definitely be on board,” Garcia said. “But there has to be a clear need in the community. We’d be open to restarting it, if a student was passionate about bringing it back.”