Hi 87 / Lo 67
|Volume 68, Issue 25,
Monday, September 30, 2002
Ed De La Garza
Josh Gajewski Nikie Johnson
Show them the money
Colleges and state governments are getting wedged between a rock and a hard place when it comes to awarding scholarship money, and the most needy may be feeling the most hurt.
As the getting-into-college game becomes more and more competitive, the amount of money put into merit-based scholarships is growing, at the expense of need-based aid, a recent Wall Street Journal story reported.
The motives for the shift aren't exactly noble. Colleges want to raise their profiles by attracting more accomplished students, and state legislators want to curry favor with the parents of the white, middle-class students who get the most merit aid.
But while merit-based aid is growing, financially needy students are starting to lose out. In 1999, about 79 percent of states' scholarship money went to needy students — still a high amount, but down from the 89 percent that went to needy students a decade earlier.
College administrators and state legislators need to think long and hard about what they are doing. Although they stand to benefit from this trend, many students are losing out on a life-changing experience.
Those who apply for need-based scholarships are relying on that aid to get a college education. But a merit-based scholarship probably isn't going to motivate or enable a student to go to college.
College costs are rising, a fact that any UH student who's looked at a fee bill is sure to know. The ever-greater costs threaten to put college out of the reach of many lower-income students, which means colleges and legislators should be trying to increase need-based aid. Instead, they are doing the opposite.
Merit-based aid is important. Rewarding people for doing well is a motivation to keep doing well. But priority should go to giving people the chance to do well by allowing them to afford college. Take care of the basics first.
The programs in place now to reward students based on merit probably won't be taken away. But colleges and legislators need to rein it in and stop adding more programs that take away money from people who need it.
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