A considerable proportion of students require financial aid, either as loans or grants, to get through college. Data compiled by educationdata.org reveals that, on average, a student requires $35,000 per academic year (Hanson, 2021). The data also reveals that in-state students spend $10,000 on tuition while out-of-state students incur costs of $27,000 on average. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) data reveals that undergraduate students received $6,617, on average, in federal student loans in the academic year 2019-20 (IPEDS, 2021). The expenses incurred in tertiary education can be strenuous for an individual. Merit awards enable students to obtain critical financial aid to cover the student’s tuition and other financial expenses such as accommodation and books. Merit awards can help students avoid costly student loans and help high achievers who cannot attain financial aid due to their income status at home.
Requirements for Award of Merit
Due to limited financial resources, there is a need to establish the base requirements for financial aid awards. The base requirements should ensure that after awarding merit scholarships, the beneficiaries are those who merit said scholarships. Student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) is fundamental in determining whether a student deserves the merit award since it tracks the student’s progress over their academic life. In addition to impeccable academic performance, the students awarded merit scholarships should be local citizens.
The minimum GPA requirement for this particular GPA-based merit award program is 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. A 2.5 GPA on the scale translates to a performance of above 80. According to Greene H. & Greene M. (2018), college admissions reveal that most colleges set the base requirement at a 3.0 GPA. However, this model will consider students with a minimum of 2.5 GPA.
The award to a student varies with their GPA. There shall be five GPA ranges with varying amounts awarded for each range. The ranges shall be 2.5 – 2.7, 2.7 – 3.0, 3.0 – 3.3, 3.3 – 3.7, and 3.7 – 4.0.
The financial support accorded to students varies with the academic performance. Students with a GPA of between 3.7 and 4.0 should be awarded more funds therefore having better discount rates. The institution’s tuition fee is $45,000. The financial award to students decreases with GPA. The program should be set up such that students renew their applications on an annual basis rather than guaranteed four-year support. Yearly renewal helps students achieve better grades since they are determined to meet the minimum requirements for merit aid renewal. Aid awarded should be adequate to cover all mandatory fees aside from tuition fees such as health fees, campus transportation fees, fees for application and registration, athletic fees, accident insurance, and fees for student activities.
The number of students in the program depends on the financial resources available to the institution. However, the program should take in more students with higher GPAs. For example, if the program provides financial aid to a thousand students, the distribution of students in each class may follow the pattern in the table below. For tuition fees of $45,000, the total student fee required is $45,000,000. Since the overall discount rate is 50% the total award is worth $22,500,000. To achieve this, the GPA classes can use the discount rates indicated in the table below. The financial aid is then calculated from the corresponding discount rates. The discount rates in this model can be maintained for any number of students as long as the ratio of students in the GPA classes is maintained.
|GPA Class||Number of Students||Discount Rates||Financial Aid Per Student||Total financial aid (GPA Class)|
|3.7 – 4.0||300||54%||24,300||7,290,000|
|3.3 – 3.7||300||50%||22,500||6,750,000|
|3.0 – 3.3||250||48%||21,600||5,400,000|
|2.7 – 3.0||100||46%||20,700||2,070,000|
|2.5 – 2.7||50||44%||19,800||990,000|
The program should set up a committee to evaluate the students who apply for the merit award. The award committee should also develop the guidelines on application procedures. Such procedures may require the student to send in an application letter to explain why they deserve the scholarship. Additionally, the committee should compel the student to provide a teacher’s written recommendation vouching for the student. The recommendation should provide an insight into the student’s behavior, initiative, and academic ability. Depending on the field of study that the student is interested in, the committee may also establish specific academic requirements. For example, in addition to qualification through the GPA, students who intend to pursue engineering should be in the 90th percentile in math scores.
Policies in Administration and Expenditure of Financial Aid
The merit award program should ensure equal representation of minorities. Individuals involved in the process of awarding financial aid should ensure that there are no traces of discrimination in the award process. The process should be transparent and devoid of any form of bias. Consideration of the socioeconomic background of students is vital to ensure that those disadvantaged by their backgrounds can still get the chance to attend college. Merit-based award coordinators should encourage minorities to apply and should grant qualified candidates their rightful aid awards. Additionally, the proportion of female students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs is low compared to male students. The model should be set up in such a way that it reduces such disparities and levels the playing field.
The awarding committee should protect the data provided to them by the students and maintain high privacy standards. The committee should also maintain high standards of integrity and promote ethical behavior. Consequently, they should prevent any conflict of interest in the awarding process. An individualized approach of awarding financial aid can help identify those in dire need of financial resources and prioritize said individuals. Such a process requires due diligence by the committee. The student also has a responsibility to spend the financial aid obtained only to achieve their educational goals. Expenditure outside the confines of educational needs should be reined in, and consequences meted out to students who spend the financial aid in ways that contravene this policy.
The GPA of the student depends on the grading system in the school that the student attended. Grading systems differ from school to school, and a 3.0 GPA student in one institution may possess lower academic ability than one from another institution with the same GPA. Differing grading policies cause disparities depending on the school that one attended. The lack of standardization can disadvantage some students. The institution may subject the students to a standardized test for candidates who make it through the initial screening process to overcome this challenge.
Another expected challenge is the tedious process of sorting out applications. Since the institution may receive thousands of applications, the awarding committee should obtain an adequate workforce to handle the applications. There are several steps involved in the process, including the receipt of applications, verification of documents, and interviewing. Automated systems can be put in place that reject unqualified applicants right at the onset to prevent the wastage of precious human resources. Automation and increased human resources also help in reducing the time taken between application and approval. Reduction of the time taken by the process eliminates uncertainty among the students waiting on the outcome.
Though this merit award model only focuses on students’ academic performance, the model should be expanded to accommodate students involved in extracurricular activities. Universities are increasingly adopting athletic aid and talent aid programs. These programs help students with exceptional abilities get an education. Financial aid committees should prioritize students with talents in addition to academic qualifications over those with academic qualifications alone. Students with leadership potential should also be taken into account. Leadership potential can be determined by the student’s involvement in any form of leadership role. By expanding the criteria to accommodate such students, the institution promotes the personal development of their students while promoting intellectual development as well.
To expand the program, the institution can also collaborate with firms in specific fields to provide additional financial resources. For example, the BMW Group offers scholarships to students in the engineering field to pursue accredited engineering programs. The Arent Fox Diversity Scholarship Program by the Arent Fox law firm awards scholarships and internship opportunities for students. In addition to increased financial resources, such collaboration programs can become incentives to students since the firms can provide career development opportunities upon completion of studies.
Students who apply for financial aid should be equipped with information on all aspects of financial aid. Such information includes the terms of the monetary award, the discount rates, and the terms of expenditure of the loan. Students can also be enrolled in work-study programs to facilitate expenses not fulfilled by the financial aid and bring in additional income. Such jobs include library attendants, professor’s assistants, and campus ambassadors, among others. A work-study program can help promote the financial independence of the students while giving their resumes an edge over other students.
Merit-based financial aid is instrumental in supporting students through their academic journey. However, any financial aid programs require proper policies in administration of the program and careful planning and execution of said policies. Continuous review of the model is vital to address any shortcomings observed during the implementation of the model. It is also necessary to benchmark the model against successful modules to discover ways to improve the model.
Financial incentives can be used to draw brilliant students to a tertiary institution. Such students can also benefit the institution by participation in academic endeavors such as research. Highly intelligent students also bolster an institution’s popularity by partaking in activities that reflect well on the institution. Such popularity may increase funding for the particular institution hence improving the quality of education offered in the institution.
This assignment helped me gain valuable insight into the data on education in the United States. By navigating the government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), I accessed IPEDS data easily. IPEDS contains exhaustive data on all colleges, from a world-class institution to a liberal arts college. Graduation rates, enrollment rates, and data on diversity in different institutions provide a great basis for the comparison of different colleges. I was also impressed by the data tools available on the website that enable the user to create simple tables for data analysis purposes and ease of comparison. For example, I noted that the average tuition fees in tertiary institutions have been on the steady rise for the past four decades, from a low of $11,369 in 1985 to a high of $24,623 in 2020.
Greene, H., & Greene, M. (2018). College admission requirements and your GPA. Peterson’s. Web.
Hanson, M. (2021). Average cost of college & tuition. Education Data Initiative. Web.
IPEDS. (2021). Federal student loans in the past decade. IPEDS. Web.