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Financial Aid at Georgia Tech should be primarily merit-based, rather than need-based.

Since government began enforcing equality in the public school system in the early 1940s, government funding for college students was awarded based on financial need. This step allowed many students to attend universities that would not have had the opportunity otherwise. Now that college admission and university sustainability has become more competitive than in the past, the funding process has not made the same change. The hardworking attitude of students and their dedication to success is not rewarded with financial help; instead the sole financial status of students’ caregivers is the determining factor of monetary assistance for college tuition. This allocation of government funds is not fair based on society’s current circumstances. Georgia Tech’s scholarships should be solely merit-based to reward hardworking college applicants, compliment our school’s great education available at a public university, and remain competitive with other top institutions.

Funding opportunities is a major factor when making the college decision. High school students work hard for 4 years to get admitted to top universities around the country, but then can’t pay for tuition because their parents are in the middle-class salary bracket which disqualifies them for federal grants and public scholarships. Although caregivers may be able to technically afford to send their children to college based on the numerical value of their salary, families may not be able to support their student’s college career with other family expenses such as health or emergency costs. Other students in this same need bracket are not financially supported by their parents. According to the FASFA application issued by the government, their family has sufficient funds to disqualify them from grants, but the details of the calculation leave out the fact that the student is independently funding their college education and desperately needs assistance to continue their education.

On the other hand, students that did not put forth as much effort in high school receive several thousands of dollars simply because their family background and economic status. These students may not be willing to put in the efforts to succeed and graduate from Georgia Tech. One would assume that students that work hard in high school would in turn work hard in college and value a scholarship more. These students will most likely be able to maintain the appropriate GPA to keep the granted scholarship whereas the student receiving a scholarship solely based on need may not have the dedication to keep the minimum grade requirement of the scholarship criteria. The students most likely to give back to society and the university in a positive way are the student-drivers striving for success rather than the mediocre students looking for someone else to pay for their undeserved education. Georgia Tech currently offers some general scholarships in which the “funds are awarded by the Office of Financial Planning & Services to students with financial need and above-average academic records regardless of the major and class year” (GT finaid). This financial assistance does give some funding to good students but would be more beneficial if the scholarships were solely merit based.

The second issue stresses the value of our education. Even though Georgia Tech is highly ranked among top universities in the nation and even more prestigious in the engineering and computer science fields, we must not ignore the fact that we are still a state university receiving a charter and funding from the government. As a public institution, Tech is assisting many students financially by allowing them the opportunity to receive an ivy-league quality education for state-university tuition. Other comparable university tuition costs $20,000 (MIT) and $25,000 (Caltech), which is much higher than Georgia Tech’s in-state tuition annual cost of $4,000.

To further decrease the cost of tuition, Georgia residents can earn the Hope Scholarship covering one hundred percent of tuition and fees. Students are responsible to cover room, board and a few extra expenses that can be easily earned from a part-time job. This chance to obtain one of the nation’s best educations for a small price is sufficient assistance to those students needing financial assistance for college.

The third argument of scholarship criteria involves our reputation and our competition among other universities. In order to maintain the high reputation we currently have, Georgia Tech must constantly be recruiting more intelligent, diverse and dedicated students than we currently have enrolled. Recruiting top students requires money for partial and full funded scholarships. Why would an out-of-state high school student attend Georgia Tech for $20,000 or even $10,000 a year when they could attend MIT or Caltech for under $1,500 after awarded a scholarship? Other prestigious universities offer full-paid, merit-based scholarships to attract top students, in turn maintaining and increasing the reputation of the institution. In order to compete with these universities, Georgia Tech will have to offer the same option to potential students.

Fixing this misallocation of funds will be a slow, evolving process as society moves out of forced-equality mode. Creating scholarships awarded to current students would allow the university to base funding off of university performance rather than high school grades or caregiver’s financial status.

In conclusion, the need for change in the scholarship allocation process is definitely necessary for our institution to reward good students, to value the available education and to remain competitive with other peer institutions. Rewarding students for financial status essentially punishes other students for working hard. Everyone is fighting for the same funding and the above-average students are losing.

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology”. April 2005; [Accessed 12 Mar 2005].

“California Institute of Technology”. 2004; [Accessed 12 Mar 2005].

“Georgia Tech - Office of Student Financial Planning and Services”. 2004; [Accessed 05 Apr 2005].

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