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

You Reap What You Sow: The Advantages of Merit-Based Financial Aid

The college system is integral to the well being of this country. Without it, the American people would not receive the knowledge and discipline needed to succeed in life. Unfortunately, due to the increasing quality and diversity of the education being provided, it is becoming more and more expensive to enroll in both private and public colleges and universities. As a result, many government programs have been set up to provide financial aid to prospective students and make their education a bit more affordable. But who should receive this aid? Should it go to students from lower income families, or to students with higher grades entering college? I believe the majority of financial aid should be merit based as opposed to need based, at this school and at all others.
Let us first examine the history of financial aid programs at colleges in this country. The first school to implement a scholarship fund was Harvard College in 1643, with many others to follow suite (Nelson, Gerado). From that time until around the middle of the twentieth century, these programs were primarily need-based (Nelson, Gerado). However, starting in 1954 “with the establishment of the College Scholarship Service”, a trend began in which many schools moved away from need scholarships to those of merit (Nelson, Gerado). This trend has continued to the present day. With that, let us now examine the reasons why merit-based financial aid is preferable to need-based aid here at Georgia Tech.
First of all, I believe this issue hearkens back to one of the fundamental struggles of government: freedom versus equality. With a financial aid system that is largely merit-based, students are allowed greater freedom to pursue an education as opposed to one that is more need-based. The caliber of the school a student gets into would reflect the amount of work he or she had put into their education up to that point. On the other hand, encouraging equality in the academic world would actually serve as a detriment to the academic standard. People are not are equal when it comes to learning, and to treat them otherwise would be a disservice to them.
Another important factor in this debate is Georgia Tech’s place in the academic community. As one of the top engineering schools in the country, it is vital that we keep pace with other prestige schools. Claude Pressnell, executive director of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, says, “The biggest change is that many states have moved from need-based scholarships to merit-based scholarships.” (Dolloff). As such, it is important that we follow suit. It may seem harsh and unmerciful to students of lower income families, but in the increasingly competitive world of school and later careers, it truly is survival of the fittest. As I mentioned earlier, this would actually encourage students to strive harder and reach their potentials.
The most important reason why merit based financial aid is more beneficial to students than need based aid is that it fosters healthy competition between them. If aid is only given out to the best students, then obviously students will work harder to receive it. In fact, “…merit aid is an indicator of the rising competitive pressures on colleges and universities…” (McPherson, Schapiro, 38). Students must realize that the market for careers after college is usually even more competitive and stressful than school, and providing rewards in the form of financial aid to those who excel is an excellent life lesson. Need-based aid, on the other hand, mostly takes into account the income status of the students’ families. They are rewarded not for their actions, but for the amount of money their parents make.
Let us now take a moment to consider the argument from the other side. Supporters of need-based scholarships might argue that college is simply too expensive, and that without financial aid, students from lower income families could not afford tuition. In response to this, I would pose this question: Why could those same lower income students not work harder than their peers and earn a merit scholarship? I will concede that yes, often these students come from areas with substandard high schools and do not always have the same opportunities to succeed as students who attend better schools. However, I believe that if a student truly wants to succeed, they will find a way to overcome these obstacles.
Georgia Tech and other schools across the country would see a greater benefit by moving towards a more merit based financial aid programs than doing so with need based aid. Merit aid breeds competition among students and would ensure better qualified student bodies at colleges, and ultimately, the workplace.

Works Cited
1. Soto, Nelson E. and Lopez, Gerado. "Critical Race Theory: The Fairness of Georgia Student Financial Aid Allocation". Indiana University-Bloomington.
2. Dolloff, J. Holly, "Merit vs. Need" Nashville Business Journal (August 6, 2004).
3. McPherson, Micheal S., and Schapiro, Morton Owen, "The blurring line: Between merit and need in financial aid" Change. New Rochelle: Mar/Apr 2002. Vol. 34, Iss. 2; pg. 38, 9 pgs.

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