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Merit aid shifting to need based aid

RealityCheck13RealityCheck13 63 replies8 threads Junior Member
With the potential financial crunch most colleges may face with the COVID 19 pandemic, coupled with the changing political climate regarding diversity and inclusion, will more and more colleges shift their available scholarships from merit aid to more need based aid?
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Replies to: Merit aid shifting to need based aid

  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 15904 replies1063 threads Senior Member
    Many colleges have been doing that for the past several years.
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16162 replies99 threads Senior Member
    Maybe, maybe not. Colleges have to determine how to best allocate aid to accomplish their goals. If the goal of increasing diversity becomes top priority, a school might choose to target aid to students who will help the school accomplish that goal. But doing so does not necessarily mean that they won’t give merit to the targeted students. Why assume that those students would qualify for need based but not merit?
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  • chmcnmchmcnm 780 replies6 threads Member
    edited July 10
    Already started before Covid. It's more about simple math. Less people can afford these schools. "Because diversity and inclusion" sounds better than "too expensive", it's an easier sell to the public.

    Median US income is about $60k/year. COA for many top schools is $75/k year. Even my state flagship is $35k/year. That's $300k for aundergrad education at a top private school. Family of 3 would need $1M to send kids to top schools. Not doable if you ever want to save anything for retirement.

    School debt in the US is about $1.6 TRILLION. That tells a lot.
    edited July 10
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1799 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I don't think anyone was assuming kids qualifying for need based don't qualify for merit, but most schools that shift to need-based cut back on the merit, making it extremely hard for any but the tippy top kids to get merit. 2021 and beyond will be interesting because so many will be hurting for money.
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  • RealityCheck13RealityCheck13 63 replies8 threads Junior Member
    edited July 10
    Our state flagships have been mostly need-based for awhile, and I am in favor of that because I think it helps a wider array of in-state-students. For us to consider a top-priced, private school or even an OOS public, we would most likely need some combination of merit/need-based aid to make it a viable option for our family.
    edited July 10
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  • MWolfMWolf 2793 replies14 threads Senior Member
    chmcnm wrote: »
    Already started before Covid. It's more about simple math. Less people can afford these schools. "Because diversity and inclusion" sounds better than "too expensive", it's an easier sell to the public.

    Median US income is about $60k/year. COA for many top schools is $75/k year. Even my state flagship is $35k/year. That's $300k for aundergrad education at a top private school. Family of 3 would need $1M to send kids to top schools. Not doable if you ever want to save anything for retirement.

    School debt in the US is about $1.6 TRILLION. That tells a lot.


    Ummmm, wait a minute. You are complaining that increasing need-based aid is somehow making it MORE difficult for poor students to attend college? That makes absolutely no sense at all.

    A kid from a median income family can go to many of these $75,000 a year colleges for absolutely nothing. I mean there is a lack of equity in their opportunities to be accepted, but if they are accepted, they go essentially for free.

    On the other hand, having merit money simply provides a double advantage for wealthier students, since getting high tests scores and a higher GPA is easier if you are wealthier.

    Seriously, what you're saying is "helping kids who cannot afford college is unfair to kids who cannot afford college".
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  • casinoofnycasinoofny 116 replies12 threads Junior Member
    I am taking a different view. Colleges are in business (asset based) and they want to attract students who will bring back return on the investment for college. Thus a middle class kid who is admitted to 6 of the 10 top Colleges may have a different aid package depending on the need of the top college in that year. And difference in aid can be substantial even what $$$$$$ are offered by HYPMS. But kids (poor especially) who qualify for ned based aid will have tough time as they face lot more hurdles to begin with. I think merit hidden based aid will remain depending on college needs. There are only very top few colleges that are truly need blind.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83901 replies744 threads Senior Member
    edited July 13
    casinoofny wrote: »
    There are only very top few colleges that are truly need blind.

    Most colleges are need blind for individual applicants. Examples include all of the open admission community colleges, and many moderately selective public universities that admit all or most of their students with stats only.
    edited July 13
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2246 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Colleges moved away from merit based $$ decades ago. When I went to college there were so many merit based awards and also FA. So you could stack and easily pay especially if you were low income and high achieving. Now, it's mainly based on FA. Not interested in arguing as that is how it is set up. There are VERY few LARGE merit awards. And many of the awards which are focused on merit also have questions to pinpoint need.

    I do think colleges have done a good job filling in the gap for middle class kids who used to have too much to receive much aid and ended up carrying a lot of the debt. Now, it's a bit better. But totally depends on the school and your own personal metrics.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4985 replies19 threads Senior Member
    When I went to college there were so many merit based awards and also FA. So you could stack and easily pay especially if you were low income and high achieving. Now, it's mainly based on FA.

    Merit based awards are a type of FA.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2246 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @BelknapPoint Not when I was in school and not even today.
    A good example is the National Merit Finalist. If you do well enough to win this award it is given whether your parents make $10.00 or 10 million. We know someone who won it last year and the parents sold a company for many millions. There are others in this camp. Not many, but there are some for which FA is not a factor. One can look them up on various databases and see the criteria.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4985 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Not when I was in school and not even today.
    A good example is the National Merit Finalist. If you do well enough to win this award it is given whether your parents make $10.00 or 10 million. We know someone who won it last year and the parents sold a company for many millions. There are others in this camp. Not many, but there are some for which FA is not a factor. One can look them up on various databases and see the criteria.

    You are misunderstanding me. I am not saying that all (or even most) merit awards have a financial need component. I am simply saying that merit awards fall under the wide definition of financial aid: funding that is used to assist in covering the many costs incurred in the pursuit of post-secondary education. Financial aid does not exclusively mean need-based aid.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2793 replies14 threads Senior Member
    @BelknapPoint @Happytimes2001 Aside from the merit awards that are open anybody based on academic criteria, and FA for students who have already been accepted, based on their SES, there are a bunch of merit scholarships for which only students who come from low income backgrounds are eligible (such as Questbridge).
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2246 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @mwolf Sorry, I would not consider those to be merit scholarships in the sense of meritocracy (open to all). So I guess someone's definition of merit determines which scholarships are included.

    I would consider those to be need based qualified scholarships for kids with high potential with qualify for specific programs. So they have a merit component but aren't truly based on merit ( it is only one factor). Very different as they are not open to all. Many of these programs have a race or need based (or both) consideration. Many others have a geographical consideration. Some programs limit criteria only to those who are female. They limit the scope of the programs based on who they are trying to serve.

    I'd say they are targeted programs based on criteria first, then depending who is in that pool, merit second ( and some don't consider merit as the primary driver). I'd call them combined programs. Having won a few of these type of scholarships myself while in college I thought of these as primarily being driven by the program looking for a certain type of candidate then picking from those candidates ( often with an interview).

    This is the primary change over the last couple of decades. There used to be quite a few merit based scholarships that were not based on SES. Now they are fairly rare. But they do still exist.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2246 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @BelknapPoint Ok, well if you define any aid as "Financial aid" then your definition works. As a recipient of FA and merit based awards, grants, work study, Pell Grants, and teaching assistant $, I know that a merit based award is not financial aid. One doesn't owe anyone anything (except good grades). But now that I understand your definition, I can understand your thinking a bit better.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2793 replies14 threads Senior Member
    @mwolf Sorry, I would not consider those to be merit scholarships in the sense of meritocracy (open to all). So I guess someone's definition of merit determines which scholarships are included.

    I would consider those to be need based qualified scholarships for kids with high potential with qualify for specific programs. So they have a merit component but aren't truly based on merit ( it is only one factor). Very different as they are not open to all. Many of these programs have a race or need based (or both) consideration. Many others have a geographical consideration. Some programs limit criteria only to those who are female. They limit the scope of the programs based on who they are trying to serve.

    I'd say they are targeted programs based on criteria first, then depending who is in that pool, merit second ( and some don't consider merit as the primary driver). I'd call them combined programs. Having won a few of these type of scholarships myself while in college I thought of these as primarily being driven by the program looking for a certain type of candidate then picking from those candidates ( often with an interview).

    This is the primary change over the last couple of decades. There used to be quite a few merit based scholarships that were not based on SES. Now they are fairly rare. But they do still exist.

    I guess that "combined programs" would be a good term.

    There are also a bunch of scholarships which use ethnic and national origins as a criterion, like scholarships for people whose origin is Poland or Norway, so race and geography aren't the only criteria.

    BTW, what do you think about scholarships that are limited to in-state applicants? I would consider them to be entirely merit, rather than "combined", at least of the scholarship is being given by a public university. Not arguing, just curious.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 5545 replies93 threads Senior Member
    @BelknapPoint Ok, well if you define any aid as "Financial aid" then your definition works. As a recipient of FA and merit based awards, grants, work study, Pell Grants, and teaching assistant $, I know that a merit based award is not financial aid. One doesn't owe anyone anything (except good grades). But now that I understand your definition, I can understand your thinking a bit better.

    When colleges report FA amounts, it includes all of these types of aid. In financial aid circles, merit aid is one type of financial aid. And yes, some merit aid requires an SES component, 'combined' seems like a good term for that... but it all still falls under the FA umbrella.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2246 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @Mwfan1921 Ok, so you are going based on the college reports. Makes sense. Doesn't apply to us as my oldest isn't that old to have gotten those reports. When we think of merit we think of merit where it does not consider income ( at all). For example, my kid just applied to a scholarship through one of our financial institutions. It's based on an essay and grades. They have no idea of income. Another one is based on being an alumni of a particular Summer Camp, no income validation or questions either.

    @MWolf In terms of public universities, I would have to see the criteria before I could make a determination. If they are things like the UMass system full scholarship ( I think it's called Abagail Adams or something) which is based on National Merit scores and GPA then I would say that's merit. I think that's an auto free scholarship based on just a couple of factors and I don't think income is a factor. I haven't looked at it in a while so naturally if it has an income component than I would say, it's not merit but combo based.

    And there are also scholarships for which you have to have a particular last name or some random connection to something. Or your parent has to work for a specific company, or you have to be a Girl Scout/Boy Scout etc. Those are often combo. Many/most look at the family finances but not all do. Some of the weirder ones, like the named ones often have a listing which states they will also consider others who don't meet the criteria.




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  • chmcnmchmcnm 780 replies6 threads Member
    edited July 17
    MWolf wrote: »
    chmcnm wrote: »
    Already started before Covid. It's more about simple math. Less people can afford these schools. "Because diversity and inclusion" sounds better than "too expensive", it's an easier sell to the public.

    Median US income is about $60k/year. COA for many top schools is $75/k year. Even my state flagship is $35k/year. That's $300k for aundergrad education at a top private school. Family of 3 would need $1M to send kids to top schools. Not doable if you ever want to save anything for retirement.

    School debt in the US is about $1.6 TRILLION. That tells a lot.


    Ummmm, wait a minute. You are complaining that increasing need-based aid is somehow making it MORE difficult for poor students to attend college? That makes absolutely no sense at all.

    A kid from a median income family can go to many of these $75,000 a year colleges for absolutely nothing. I mean there is a lack of equity in their opportunities to be accepted, but if they are accepted, they go essentially for free.

    On the other hand, having merit money simply provides a double advantage for wealthier students, since getting high tests scores and a higher GPA is easier if you are wealthier.

    Seriously, what you're saying is "helping kids who cannot afford college is unfair to kids who cannot afford college".

    I'm not complaining about anything. I'm just answering the question. The question was "will more and more colleges shift their available scholarships from merit aid to more need based aid?"

    My point was that schools are moving towards need based aid vs merit because they have to. It's math and graphs. Tuition inflation is and has been greater than income inflation. To make-up the difference either need FA or merit or both will need to be increased if tuition inflation keeps outpacing income inflation. The overall money bucket is only so big. Money from the scholarship bucket will probably shrink as money from the need bucket will increase.

    If income and tuition had increased at the same rate we wouldn't have the $1.6 Trillion student debt issue.

    The first part of the question said "because of diversity and inclusion". That sounds nice but it's really because of money, not kindness. It sounds better than "because our tuition costs have grown way faster than your salary".

    Lots of articles and graphs but this one is pretty good even if a few years old.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/did-you-work-your-way-through-college-heres-why-your-kids-cant-2017-11-21

    https://money.cnn.com/2011/06/13/news/economy/college_tuition_middle_class/index.htm
    edited July 17
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