Affordability. BE WARY of the generous Merit Scholarships at UVM

While they offer wonderful merit scholarships for high achieving students, anywhere up to $18,000+ per year approximately, it is contingent on maintaining a 3.0 average, i.e. a grade of 83-86 average. That may sound like an easy thing for kids pulling 4.0 and higher in highschool in honors courses, but it can be very misleading. In any of the Science and Engineering majors, the initial courses have many kids losing their scholarship after the first year. The kids find themselves under this incredible pressure on top of all the usual pressures away from home, because they all talk about it. So unless you can still afford that additional amount for the following three years, this should be a calculation you make when accepting here, over another affordable option for your family.

I can understand your warning but having a 3.0 GPA threshold for maintaining a scholarship is very common at many schools.

I have a daughter at a different school where she needs to maintain a 3.5 GPA to maintain her scholarship. We did notice the 3.0 requirement for the presidential scholarship at UVM (we are from the northeast).

These are merit scholarships. It seems reasonable to me that a student has to maintain a high GPA in order to maintain the scholarship for four years.

However, I agree that parents and students need to be very aware of this requirement. Also, UVM is relatively expensive for out of state students if you do not get a good merit scholarship.

There is something that we did not do, and in retrospect it was probably a mistake. We never said anything to our kids about what would happen if they lost their merit scholarships. Fortunately this issue did not come up for us. However, it probably is something that is worth discussing before a student starts at a school that is only affordable due to a merit scholarship.

I’m glad you bring this to attention. Though not atypical, one needs to understand that kids do lose their merit scholarships. I did. My son did. It’s a good idea to have some contingency plans in the back of ones head when finances include hefty merit money.

Your sentiments are understood, however it is a bigger problem at UVM than elsewhere as several of these courses are requirements for most of the Sciences. I am not commenting as a prospective parent of, and am not a newbie college parent without merit scholarship recipients at other schools. This student written piece below is accurate. And, while many are concerned with failing, out-of-staters have to consider a B- a failure.

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“Weed-out” classes cut out students’ goals

Emily Johnston, Opinion Columnist
November 6, 2019

STEM students, those in science, technology, engineering and math, all must pass sets of classes for their major that are required prerequisites.

These classes are known among students and faculty as “weed-out” classes because they are notorious for being so difficult that they cause many students to switch majors.

I think it’s absolutely true that parents and students need to be aware of merit scholarship renewal cutoffs but as noted, this is not a UVM specific problem. Typical first year engineers need to take two semesters of general chemistry, physics, calculus, and in some schools, engineering design, no matter where they go to school. Pre meds have their own requirements for general chem, bio, math, etc… It’s the nature of what’s needed as the foundation for these tracks and yes, they are hard! Maintaining a 3.0 in college as a STEM major isn’t a no brainer for even the smartest students.

Weed out classes are difficult almost everywhere. And even full-pay students can be put on academic probation if they don’t pass. That is not unique to U-VT.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t limited to merit aid either. I am sure there are need-based scholarships out there also requiring minimum GPAs. There is an expression that money flows to where it is best treated. In this case to 3.0+ students.

Yes, well, NEW college parents with smart high-achieving children, do keep it in mind when turning away from other more affordable options.

This last child got into every school applied to in the chosen major and could have gone to schools where merit aid on the line would not have been an issue. Instead there has been a lot of unnecessary stress over a scholarship they are unlikely to lose. It is something to keep in mind for those just getting those acceptances now, in a position to choose.

My daughter was accepted into the Nursing program last year with a 15k per year merit award -she just completed her first semester. My deal with her is that is she can not maintain the GPA required to keep the award OR remain in the nursing program then she needs to transfer to an in state (NY) school to continue.

Most merit awards I’ve seen require a 3.0 average in order for the student to get to keep the award. I suggest reading very carefully how that “average” is defined. Die schools are much stricter than others in pulling that scholarship. I do not know how UVM applies the 3.0 criterion

It is also very very important that parents and students understand the family finances and how crucial it is to keep a scholarship. In our case, our son got a $3500 a year scholarship at our state school. When he lost the scholarship , it was not a fatal blow to his continuing at the school, though disappointing. Had it been a $35k scholarship at a $75k school, it would have been a whole different story.

If you are in a family where that merit award makes all of the difference as to whether you can afford to go to that school or not, you had better have a back up plan as to what to do if you lose the scholarship. Things happen in life. Again, know all of the ways you can lose the award. Does the school guarantee to meet full need and would you get enough financial to afford the cost if you lost the award? Bottom line, could you afford this school if you lose that money?

The problem with losing a merit award due to dipping below a 3.0 is that it also affects your transfer possibilities. Where would you go if your college became unaffordable and your grades are not up there? State U might not be an option. Schools that you put your nose up regarding attending may no longer consider you a viable candidate. Transfers tend to be last in line for financial aid and forget merit money if you aren’t making gpa threshholds.

In our neighborhood, a young woman was “hot stuff” as scholarship applicant as a senior in high school. She got a very generous scholarship , and then left the university abruptly. Our local SUNY would not accept her as a matriculating student which means zero access to financial aid, state , feeders, let alone schools. Not even loans. Not even work study. She had to attend a full time term and get a certain GPA before being considered a matriculating student due to her lack luster performance in college. All the stuff that made her so “hot” in high school were no longer considerations at. With parents undergoing a financial crisis, she ended up working and going to school part time. A very tough way to learn the consequences of not keeping those grades up at college.

I am the OP here, and my kid actually got a great first semester GPA, but seeing what all these kids are going through mentally trying to get through STEM classes with a 3.0 is the reason for my post. My kid thought it would be a given to get a 3.0 or higher – another child of mine had absolutely no problem maintaining that in the social sciences. This kids is seeing friends drop out, transfer, and change majors. The mental strain and anguish added to my kids’ coursework was not a positive thing.

That’s pretty much any college. Why should they give tons of merit each year to a kid who isn’t working and barely passing? 3.0 seems fair.

I don’t see the problem here as the University of Vermont makes the 3.0 GPA scholarship stipulation clear from the time that the award is made.

It is common knowledge that STEM majors are hard and typically involve weed out courses as do other majors such as economics and accounting at many colleges and universities.

P.S. Unless there is a clear pattern which demonstrates that a school has predetermined that a certain percentage of students will lose their scholarships–such as several law schools do–then their is no issue to be alarmed about.

DD20 was in this situation when she was offered a full 4 year scholarship to a Prep School. I did hear her mention on occasion that she had to keep her GPA up to standard as a result of her scholarship but she does hard so I know that anything that happens will not be for lack of effort on her part. I also think that this was a motivating factor for her to not become too complacent/comfortable. One of the colleges that she is applying to has stipulated that they have to maintain a 3.0 GPA but instead of losing the entire scholarship, they reduce the amount a certain percentage every semester that the GPA is not reached in an effort to assist them with recovering. While the family may become responsible for a portion, the student does not necessarily have to drop out. I am hoping if all works the way we’re thinking that she will get into a school where she has a full merit scholarship and we can also afford the tuition if necessary.

This is standard practice for merit scholarships.

I know my kid pretty well, and I’m afraid he’s going to struggle his first year of college. People think I’m crazy saying that because he’s been getting pretty much straight A’s in high school, but he’s accomplished that with almost zero effort on his part. I know it’s a different world at college and he’s pretty much going to have to learn how to study and manage his time freshman year. He’s also going for engineering which is notoriously tough, but honestly, I’m less worried about him in math and science classes than in any of the writing intensive ones.

Because of that, scholarship renewal criteria is a big factor in our decision. We’ve already crossed off one school with a large scholarship with a 3.0 renewal requirement. There was absolutely no way he could afford to continue there if the scholarship was lost and he had another other equally good option that only required a 2.0 so the added stress didn’t seem worth it.

@NYCDadof2 some merit scholarships have a minimum GPA requirement for sure. But it’s usually 2.5. Many have none.

I think when there is a requirement, it is fairly even between 2.5 and 3.0.

Like admission to college in general, a merit scholarship is NOT a “prize” for getting a high GPA/high test scores in high school. It is an incentive colleges provide to students who the college wants to have, because the student has demonstrated the ability to do really well.

If that student is unable to do well, the college has no reason to provide that student with an incentive to stay.

That is why the most competitive college do not provide merit funding. Not because they believe that all of their students are excellent, and therefore no student is more worthy than the rest. That may look good on a brochure but it’s horsefeathers. The real reason that the don’t provide merit money is because they do not need to provide incentives to high performing students to attend their college. Colleges who are turning away 80% of the 4.0 students who apply do not need to offer money for more 4.0 students to attend.

Colleges provide tuition cuts for students who are also providing something to the college in return for that money. Increasing the academic profile of the college is one of those “somethings”. If the student is not maintaining a GPA above a certain minimum, they are no longer providing an increase to the college’s academic profile, and therefore there is no reason for the college to give them a discount on their tuition.

It is no different than an athletic scholarship - a student athlete wouldn’t expect to continue receiving a scholarship if they no longer performed at the level of a college athlete.

This is true everywhere and a 3.0 is quite reasonable. My D’s scholarship requires a 3.5 and most students in her cohort are STEM majors yet they all have no problem graduating with Latin honors. Why should schools give merit money to students who can’t even maintain a B average? Bummer for those who lose it, but it’s a very reasonable requirement.