The growing popularity of Southern Utah State College has led to a scholarship crunch in the 1980s as enrollment at SUSC grew faster than new scholarship money could be raised.

In 1981, SUSC had about 408 applicants for scholarships, said D. Mark Barton, director of admissions and records. By 1990, that number had risen to 1,400."Our popularity - students selecting SUSC - has been skyrocketing," Barton said. "But we have not had a significant increase in scholarships."

There was a time when a grade point average of 3.0 could get a student an academic scholarship, and a 3.5 GPA was highly competitive. No more. Last year, Barton noted, the average GPA of students who obtained academic scholarships was 3.87.

Traditionally, leadership and talent scholarships have not been overly dependent on high grades, he explained. But today, even those scholarships have become fiercely competitive and GPA is increasingly becoming the factor that can tip the balance.

In addition, the need for student scholarships is perhaps higher at SUSC than many other schools. According to SUSC President Gerald R. Sherratt, the school is regional in nature and its region is largely rural - and less affluent than most urban areas.

These challenges also come at a time of federal budget cutbacks that are limiting the availability of student grants. According to Rex Michie, director of financial aid, the portion of federal higher education money available for grants has in relation to the amount available for loans has declined for 10 years, with the result that students are taking out more federal loans.

With the prospect of even more demand for scholarships as a result of university status, raising money for them is crucial to the school's future.

"It's our single highest priority for fund raising," said Vaughn McDonald, assistant to the president for college advancement.

McDonald heads a team that has the formidable task of raising money for scholarships - lots of it.

A major campaign, the University Scholarship Campaign, is already under way to raise money for 100 scholarships for next year.

The upcoming programs to meet SUSC's scholarship goals include the annual Phonathon that has already raised more than $500,000 since its inception some years ago, and a University Scholars Telethon after deer hunting season.

The team will also be seeking money through alumni, corporations and businesses, department scholarships from the faculty and staff, memorials and a gala celebration to mark the change to university status.

This year, the college's student body plans to swing into action to support the cause, too. ASSUSC President Julie Stewart said a prime goal is to create two endowed scholarships of their own.