Scholarship highlights lesser-known study program

The scholarships will be distributed to students interested in actuarial science over the next five years.

Katherine Lymn

University of MinnesotaâÄôs students have a new opportunity to study the actuarial sciences when the career is about to be more in demand than ever. Minneapolis-based health care provider UnitedHealth Group has donated $1 million to the Carlson School of Management to financially aid students with an interest in actuarial science, just when the career will likely see a boost because of the recently passed healthcare reform. CarlsonâÄôs Medical Industry Leadership Institute is managing the money, although students of any major are eligible for the scholarship and the program has been âÄúvery broad in drawing students,âÄù said Ruth Taylor , MILI associate director. Actuary studies involve the science of predicting rates and trends in the effort to set appropriate healthcare and insurance costs. âÄúWe hope to attract people to the profession,âÄù Kyle Brua, a vice president and actuary for UHG , said. While healthcare reform was nothing more than a campaign platform when talk of the fund began, the scholarships come at a time when credentialed actuaries are more in-demand than ever, Brua said. Actuaries are the mathematicians and analysts behind the number-crunching central to the health-care debate, said professor Stephen Parente , MILI director. According to Parente, members of Congress did not feel comfortable proceeding with the bill without the approval of the Congressional Budget Office , which is made up partly of actuaries. There has been âÄúexcellent responseâÄù to the program since applications opened on March 12, Taylor said. The online application closes Friday at noon and recipients will be announced in early May. The majority of applicants come from CSOM, the Institute of Technology, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences , Taylor said. Larry Gray , an IT math professor, said the scholarship is significant in that it draws attention to the health industry within actuarial science. Among life insurance, investment-oriented, legal and other types of the science, health is a lesser-known field. âÄúPartly what [UHG] are trying to doing to do is help people see this that is a good place to go,âÄù Gray said. The actuarial field as a whole is also a good way for students with strong math and analytical skills to translate their studies into a lucrative job post-graduation, Gray said. âÄúPeople often are trying to decide between different things,âÄù he said. âÄúThe attraction of a scholarship might be just the thing that helps them decide, or helps them at least try it out.âÄù The scholarship will pay for up to two semesters of full-time, in-state tuition for students. If the student recipient is already receiving another form of financial aid, the UHC scholarship will fill in the gaps in paying for the full-ride, Taylor said. As many as 15 students will be funded each year for five years. Juniors, who tackle costly certification examinations and other expenses toward the end of their degree programs, will have precedence over younger students to help alleviate these costs, Taylor said.