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Understanding college financial awards

Community Columnist

Over the last 10 years, colleges have increased the number of scholarships they offer to students.

Of private colleges and universities, 94 percent offer merit scholarships.

Of public universities, 100 percent offer some sort of merit based scholarships.

Increases in merit aid have outpaced increases in need-based financial aid. To understand this shift, one must first understand the process of enrollment management utilized by most colleges and universities.

“Strategic Management Enrollment” refers to the use of financial aid to shape an incoming freshman class in order to further an institution’s goals. It is different from financial aid awarded to students based on need or merit awards allocated based on academic achievement.

Institutions decide the kind of freshman class they want to enroll to achieve certain goals. For example, the school may want to increase the academic profile of the entering freshman class, increase diversity or improve retention rates. Admission offices offer scholarships to attract students who will help meet these goals.

Similarly, colleges use strategic management to increase net tuition revenue. Merit awards are offered to those who would otherwise be full paying students. Their families may thus perceive these schools to be a “better deal” and feel the college genuinely wants their son or daughter to attend, otherwise they wouldn’t have offered an award.

The student also wants to attend the merit-offering institution as it has recognized his or her academic effort and achievement. In so doing, the institution enrolls a nearly full pay student who might have enrolled at another college had a merit offer not been forthcoming.

Strategic Management benefits both: the college enrolls a higher-paying student with a merit award and the otherwise full-pay student gets a break on tuition.

For more information, visit collegedirectionscny.com.

Maria Badami, MS, is a Cazenovia resident and college consultant with College Directions CNY, located at 7030 East Genesee St. in Fayetteville. She can be reached at 243-6658 or collegedirectionscny@gmail.com.

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