Early Decision

Will a school be less inclined to offer a merit scholarship to a student if the apply early decision since they are obligated to go there if accepted?

Yes, it is likely.

I don’t think so. Colleges give merit aid and most selective schools will offer need based scholarships. For example Stanford, will give you a full ride basically including dorms and stuff if your parents income is under 65,000. So if you do early decision, you will still get aid.

Now for state universities and non selective schools, that’s a completely different story. But probably give you the same fairness in being able to receive financial awards.

not talking about need based. Merit based…

Merit is offered as a bribe to entice you to attend a school you otherwise wouldn’t choose. If you don’t apply for financial aid, you must attend if you apply ED, so the school could indeed save the merit money to entice another RD applicant later.