Academic journal article College and University

The Role of Merit-Based Scholarships IN MEETING Affordability

Academic journal article College and University

The Role of Merit-Based Scholarships IN MEETING Affordability

Article excerpt

During the past several years, an ongoing debate about the value of merit-based aid has been aired in publications, at conferences, and on campuses. The debate originates with a belief that institutions should invest more resources to provide need-based aid for middle- and low-income students. With increasing college costs accompanied by stable or declining state and federal aid, pressure tends to shift to institutions to fund the shortfalls that needy students might experience.

Indiana University (iu) has several need-based financial aid programs in which institutional dollars are awarded solely on the basis of the standard analysis generated from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa). However, it is incorrect to assume that merit-based aid fails to serve students with financial need. At IU, almost two-thirds of our freshman scholarship matriculants demonstrate general financial need. Although our studies have been specific to IU, it is likely that similar results might be found at other large, public research universities. It would be a very narrow strategic view that embraced an institutional aid program for merit-based aid targeted to "highquality" students and separated need-based aid targeted to all others, with no crossover funding present for highquality students who also have financial need. Within this context, we have examined how merit-based institutional aid at Indiana University is utilized not only to award top scholars and meritorious students, but also to assist in meeting affordability goals.

The funding of merit- and need-based aid by the institution is both deliberate and purposeful. The Office of Enrollment Management (oem), in concert with the academic deans, determines how best to use institutional funds in order to encourage the matriculation and continued enrollment of an undergraduate student body that reflects the academic mission as well as the role of the institution in the state and in the nation. Actually, given its significant number of enrollments by students from outside the United States, it perhaps is more accurate to state that iu enrolls a student body that reflects the institution's role in the world.

Institutional scholarships and grants are cash awards directed precisely and specifically to cohorts of students; the results of those awards are measured in terms of desired yields. Awarding practices are refined and revised on the basis of the outcomes of previous packaging policies and business practices. Awarding strategies must align the institutions financial aid goals with its overall enrollment goals, and the results of each awarding cycle must be assessed, measured, and revised against desired outcomes. Automatic institutional scholarships remain at the standard levels, with institutional grant money applied through packaging to meet remaining need. The amounts for automatic scholarships are not increased to reflect need; rather, the scholarship and grant categories remain "pure," i.e., merit-based or need-based.

Following is a description of how these programs are managed through the Office of Enrollment Management at Indiana University Bloomington.

ALIGNING MERIT-BASED SCHOLARSHIPS WITH CAMPUS RECRUITMENT GOALS

Indiana University has four fundamental recruitment goals:

* Improve the quality of the freshman class as defined by grade point average and standardized test scores.

* Increase the diversity of the freshman class as defined by ethnicity and socio economic status.

* Increase the international presence of Indiana University.

* Keep iu affordable, particularly for Indiana residents.

Admission to Indiana University is need blind, focusing on the academic record of the applicant without regard to financial status. The prospect has been sufficiently attracted to the University to proceed through the admissions process. In essence, when the student applies for admission, we have no indication whether he and his family have already determined that they can (or cannot) afford to pay college costs. …

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