Merit scholarships attract bright students to prestigious universities


Kat Shambaugh, Features editor

College tuition poses one of the most important challenges for high school students. They dream of attending certain colleges, only to let high tuition rates scare them away. For lower and middle class families, one saving grace exists: scholarships. Unfortunately, colleges recently  trend towards eliminating merit scholarships, creating situations where students do not have enough money for their college dream but still want a bright future.

Today, colleges can offer two different types of scholarships: need-based and merit. Need-based results from filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the school provides certain amounts of money based on income, assets, and other payments. Merit scholarships, instead, base their awards on academic achievement, leadership qualities, artistic ability, and more. Colleges currently not providing merit scholarships in lieu of need-based include Columbia, Hamilton College, Sarah Lawrence, Harvard, Stanford, Bryn Mawr College, and more.

Giving more money to need-based scholarships sounds like a bright idea at first, but the need-based program directly puts middle-class families in the worst position. Most need-based scholarships do not provide any money for a family with an income over $120,000 a year, and only partial tuition to families earning over $100,000 a year. Colleges think that anyone who makes more than $120,000 a year can pay for their tuition rates, but they do not take into account if the family could pay the same after a year of tuition. For example, for a family earning $120,000 a year to pay tuition, room and board, and other fees at Columbia University, currently a price of $67,273, the cost of just one year of tuition will drop them into the lower bracket of financial aid, affecting their quality of life.

Decreasing merit scholarships makes no sense for the colleges taking on the change. If universities want to attract outgoing, intelligent, top-of-their-class students, then they should support the scholarships who target those students. Merit scholarships increase the reputation of the school by helping to bring in the brightest and most influential minds who will greatly change and improve the campus and the college.

Merit scholarships also help any person in any financial situation. They give students a reason to work hard in high school, to achieve more, and to work towards a goal. They give students from all socioeconomic statuses and income brackets a chance to attend the school of their choice.

If colleges want the best possible students in their school, then merit scholarships provide a rational and useful way to accomplish it. Pay for the students who try the hardest, work the most, and change the world; no matter what income bracket, the most worthy candidates will demonstrate their passion and achievement and catapult our nation’s colleges to a new high.