December 1, 2011
“Unfortunately, there are not enough dollars to go around.” That’s one statement from The College Board’s Sandy Baum in a Q&A with the Hechinger Report. The Q&A focuses broadly on the adequacy of financial aid in providing access to college.
But that’s not the worst news: We’re diverting the dollars we do have away from the neediest students. To an increasing extent, we’re making financial aid merit-based rather than need-based.
The Baum Q&A is a follow-up from a November 25 Hechinger Report story laconically titled “Financial aid not always going to neediest college students.” Indeed not. Deep in that story was a link to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics that showed that public universities now give merit aid to more of their students than they give need-based aid. Private universities give merit aid to about the same proportion of students as receive need-based aid.
Says the NCES report, “In 1995–96, need-based institutional grants were more common than merit-based grants in both private nonprofit (43 percent vs. 24 per-cent) and public 4-year institutions (13 percent vs. 8 percent) (figure 4). In 2007–08, the proportion of merit aid recipients exceeded that of need-based grant recipients at public institutions (18 percent vs. 16 percent) and was not measurably different at private nonprofit 4-year institutions (42 percent vs. 44 per-cent).”