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Final Draft of Position Paper:

Merit- based Aide: The Way to Go!

In 1991, Georgia Governor Zell Miller introduced a plan to his general assembly which called for a state wide, state run lottery program whose profits benefited education. A few short months later the plan was approved by the assembly, with the first lottery ticket sold in early 1993. The profits from the new lottery are divided among four separate programs: Pre-Kindergarten, construction of new schools, as well as the remodeling of older schools, technology education for primary and secondary schools, as well as to h H.O.P.E. Scholarship Program. The later is a merit based scholarship, “rewarding students with financial assistance in degree, diploma, and certificate programs at eligible Georgia public and private universities, and public technical colleges (Georgia Student Finance Commission).” The Helping Outstanding Students Educationally Scholarship Program is especially helpful to students attending public colleges and universities. This, as well as other merit-based financial scholarships not only encourage students to stay in state, but also urge them to attend a four year school as opposed to two ear technical colleges, leading to an increased rate of college attendance. When considering the Georgia Institute of Technology individually, merit-based scholarships have added benefits, including the attraction of talented, top-tier students. Additionally, these scholarships are a key motivator for students at Georgia Tech, helping them to become goal oriented in pertinence to their schoolwork, thus increasing their level of academic performance.

Prior to the introduction of the H.O.P.E. scholarship program, a consistently growing number of Georgia graduates were leaving our state to pursue an area of postsecondary study (Finken). As colleges and universities around the country vie for positions among the top of national rankings, competition increases. Suddenly, schools have an urgent need to “attract the best and brightest students (Heller).” As the H.O.P.E. scholarship was instate, various other merit-based aid programs began to increase their overall awards. This growth has served as a relevant factor for students who are attempting to determine where the will continue their education. Our own Georgia Tech not only has an outstanding reputation among colleges, but also offers competitive merit-based scholarships, with the majority of in state students at Tech receiving and maintaining the H.O.P.E. scholarship. As such, in-state students often chose to attend Georgia Tech rather than an out-of-state school on a purely monetary basis. Thus, merit-based scholarships keep Georgia’s outstanding students at home.

Though tuition prices have been skyrocketing around the country, prices at both public and private universities in Georgia have risen an astronomical (near) fifty percent (Wick). As such, the parents of college aged students struggle, now more than ever, to pay for their child’s education. Students from middle income America feel this hit the most. Not only have their parents saved for the children’s’ educations, but hey d not qualify for financial-aide: “substantial numbers of students can’t afford to attend college (Miksch).” Due to the fact that “historically, stteas, higher education institutions, and the federal government awarded financial aid to undergraduates based solely mainly on the financial need of their families,” responsible American parents are being punished for working hard to save for their children (Heller). Often times students may be forced to take out loans with disproportionatly high interest rates to cover theier college expense. Unfortunatly, for that reason alone, many students may choose not attend college at all. However, merit-based scholarships can aid these families. If students are able to work hard and maintain a respectable grade point average throughout high school, and then college, they will most probably be eligible for one (if not many) merit-based scholarships, eliminating the need for a loan. By putting money into the pockets of potential students, they are far more likely to attend college than if they were to be unaided in their payment process.

When faced with soaring tuition prices and the knowledge that need-based aid isn’t possible, many students will opt to attend a two year technical school over a traditional four year college. However, when given a chance to receive a merit-based scholarship, such as H.O.P.E., it becomes possible to attend a broader range of schools. Thanks to the H.O.P.E. scholarship alone, there has been a ten percent shift from two year schools to four year schools (Heller). Such a shift is allowing more students to realize their dream of receiving a college education and eventual degree.

In addition to the three aforementioned wide-range benefits of merit-based aid, there are several benefits applicable to the individual student. Because merit-based aid is contingent upon academic performance, (Dynarski) students must take responsibility for their schoolwork. As middle school age students move into high school, they are quickly (and repetitively) told about various scholarships, especially H.O.P.E., as well as what they must do in order to receive such scholarships. Goal orientation obviously becomes part of the student’s environment, as they are aware of the academic standards which they must meet in order to obtain merit-based aid. Various scholarships also require an S.A.T. minimum. Thus, the forty point increase for high school seniors taking the S.A.T. may be attributed to their desire to receive such aid. In short, the modest academic performance required by merit-based programs (including H.O.P.E.) has ensured student involvement and participation in their classrooms, leading to higher grades and knowledge retention, allowing hundreds of thousands of students to be provided with money for their schooling (Dynarski).

One of the biggest issues on the educational agenda seems not to question the integrity of merit-based aid, but rather that merit-based aid squashes need-based aid and discriminates against minority (racial and low-income) students. Susan Dynarski, a faculty member at the J.F.K. School of Government at Harvard University, blatantly discredits such allegations: minorities are “relatively unlikely to attend college, so any subsidy to college students will flow disproportionately to white upper-income youth.” She points out that not only do a higher percentage of minorities fail to qualify for merit programs, but those which do qualify are far less likely to even apply for available scholarships. Many opposed to merit- based programs argue that these programs take away from the valuable money set aside for students receiving need-based programs, especially those set aside for minority students. However, this is not the case at Georgia Tech as the Georgia Institute of Technology’s 2003-2004 Common Data Sheet clearly states that minority status is a legitimate factor for all non-need based programs, excluding H.O.P.E. (table H14). Additionally, there seems to be repercussions of a more severe degree when merit-based aid is overlooked for need-based: “failing to enroll an adequate number of merit-aid students, who tend to pay a greater portion of institutional costs, can lead to inefficiency and greater costs for the minority students (Crockett).” Being such, merit-based aid has a proper place in Georgia Tech’s financial sector.

When analyzing the invaluable aspects of merit-based aid, its importance is reflected tenfold. While encouraging students to attend four year schools and stay in-state, these programs increase general college attendance. These programs also teach students to set goals for themselves, a practice which will undoubtedly carry over into their professional lives and practices. As such, merit-based aid should be awarded more frequently at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Bishop, John H. Money and Motivation.

Crockett, Kevin. Merit versus Need-based Aid: Conflicting or Complimentary Programs?
Noel-Levitz Inc.

Dynaski, Susan. The Consequences of Merit-Aid.

Finken, Dee Anne. A question of Merit: Merit-based scholarship programs have gained huge popualarity in a number of states, but many wonder at what expense- or whose? 

Georgia Instiute of Technology: 2003-2004 Common Data Sheet 

Georgia Instiute of Technology: Policy on Financial Aid and Scholarships 

Georgia Student Finance Commission 

Heller, Donald E. The changing nature of Financial Aid. 

Kremer, Michael; Miguel, Edward; Thorton, Rebecca. Incentives to Learn. 

Miksch, Karen L. Legal Issues in Developmental Education: Merit-based versus Need-based Financial Aid. 

Wick, Phillip G. Need-based Aid: Under SEIGE. 

Rough Draft of Position Paper:

In the last decade, increases in tuition have made college unaffordable for many of America’s lower-class citizens. When coupled with the knowledge that state and federal funding does not have the ability to maintain pace with these increases, it becomes evident that scholarships are gaining importance to a growing number of college students and their families. Unfortunately, the funds being used for scholarship are given primarily to those qualifying for financial aide. As the general idea of financial aide serves well in allowing the underprivileged to attend school, it decreases the amount of funding funneled toward high-merit students. With the evolution Of affirmative action, it seems necessary, more so than ever before, that a stress be placed on merit-based scholarships, as opposed to need-based. This is in no way to say that those less privileged don’t deserve help, it is merely recognizing that they do not deserve help over an academically gifted student. On a state level, merit-based scholarships are far more beneficial than the alternative. Awarding students based on their effort promotes an acceptable notion that college access and attainment are realistic and worth-while goals. This “reward” for academic success would prove effective, urging students to take responsibility for their education. In perspective, merit-scholarships are need-based in and of themselves. Students who recognize the fact that they need financial aid to attend college may work hard and receive a scholarship for their efforts. The students would also repeat the benefits of knowing that the scholarship was earned, not based on a hand-out. Need-based scholarships are allowing more people to go to college, it’s true- But at a very high cost to the general public of a university system. A majority of those students receiving financial aid would have not attended college without it. These students struggle to keep their grades up and often lose their scholarships as a result, eventually dropping out. This is an unimaginably large waste of money, taking away a valuable asset from students who come to college with the intent of studying, passing, and graduating.

My Resources:
This is the link for the 2003 Georgia Tech Fact Book. Pages 9 through 12 of the pdf provide tables depicting finacial aid when broken down as GT awarded aid, outside awards, President's Scholarships, HOPE Scholarships, National Merit and Achieved Scholarships, or graduate financial assistance.
This webpage literally lays out Ga Tech's financial aid programs one by one.
This article analyses financial aid and financial need as both juxtaposing elements of the financial system, along with the pair as co-requisites and their effects upon the college students.
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