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final draft by sumner

A Scholar is a Scholar, Rich or Poor

Academic excellence is the one characteristic that should be ubiquitous throughout all college institutions. This should be even more so evident when looking into colleges that are ranked as the top in our nation. Georgia Institute of Technology is ranked as the 10th best public university in the nation, with over 16,000 undergraduates, and an average SAT score of 1325. This incredible university gives out around 34 million dollars in financial aid, and there is only two million dollars more given out in merit-based aid (including all of HOPE), than need-based aid. Georgia Tech needs to focus more on giving out merit based scholarships in order to uphold the institutes academic competitiveness, and in the end allowing for a more successful university to emerge with more money coming back into the school.

Many institutions have made the decision to base financial scholarships solely on an equation that takes into account need over any other qualifications. Families with larger incomes and fewer college bound children find it impossible to receive any relief from the staggering cost of a college education. This also leads to the fact that this process punishes families that have saved adequate amounts of money to send their children to college, in a way placing taxes on these middle class families. This tax successfully reduces the savings of middle class families because they have to put away more and more money for college educations with no hope of financial help. This is prohibiting middle class families from saving sufficient funds to send their children to high ranking ivy league schools that have enormous tuitions and give only need based scholarships for example Harvard and Yale. We must ask ourselves what now qualifies us to be accepted to such fine institutions, should it be our merit or our financial class?

I know that talent and brilliance knows no color, ethnicity, or social class. In our country we have the ability to gain an amazing amount of information and become true scholars if it is wanted badly enough and there is a certain amount of god given intelligence. This is achievable not only in expensive private schools, but even in the worst public schools in our nation if the student is willing to work towards that goal. Financial aid should be handed out fairly and without distinction to social status, and merit based scholarships allow for this to happen. Scholarships that are handed out in this manor award those students that have truly worked and earned the money. A valedictorian that has sacrificed for her grades and her community should not be undercut in scholarships for a mediocre student that is of a lower social standing. The student of the lower social standing would also have the opportunity to sacrifice and become valedictorian and get the merit based scholarship, they should be more so motivated considering they have a need for the money. Students that don’t have the financial means for college and do not have the ability to obtain the merit-based scholarships should look to other options. These options would be joining the army or navy and getting scholarships by this means. There is also the problem that not everyone needs to go to college. There are many blue-collar jobs that are necessary for our nation to function, which would never be filled if everyone decided that college was for them. There is also the fact that our country is based on the belief that you can raise your family’s economic standing every generation. This does not necessarily mean that every persons child has to go to college, just as long as they move up a little in financial standing, they can hope that they will make enough money to send their children to college.

Supplying only Need based scholarships in colleges such as yale and harvard, does allow for them to keep costs down for students that aren’t receiving any scholarships at all. This is due to the fact that all of these highly competitive colleges would end up in a financial aid war over the same top students, causing this money to be made up in a raise of the normal tuition. This could be prevented although by means of drawing this money from other sources such as the huge donations that it receives. This would never happen because a college would never draw money away from itself to pay for this, it would make its students pay for it realistically.

Merit based need provides an incentive for students to become scholars and to strive to become the best overall student that they can possibly be. With need based scholarships students that are poor can hypothetically get by with average grades that only required a portion of their potential intelligence, and know that they will still receive a scholarship over another straight A student with more money than them. The student that had to work and train themselves to be disciplined students, poor or rich, is the student that will be putting that scholarship to the most use. Students like that are the ones that will do wonderful things for our country, and allow tax payers to bear the fruits of their money when these students peak.

Georgia’s taxpayers have been supplying money through the lottery system for HOPE. HOPE is a merit-based scholarship that pays for the college tuition of students that have graduated with a 3.0 based on a 4.0 scale. Students also have to maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA in college, and are evaluated every 30 hours. This scholarship provides a huge incentive for students to maintain the level of academic success that they had in high school (which allowed them to be accepted) throughout their college years as well. This has a tremendously positive effect on schools like Georgia tech that have 40 percent of their undergraduate population using this merit based HOPE scholarship. These students have a driving force behind them to be academic successes, much more so than a student that knows they have a scholarship as long as their parents stay in a certain financial bracket. The students that are working hard to maintain their merit-based scholarships will help Georgia Tech rise in rank and also these students will enter the working force with stronger resumes. As an out of state student I would benefit from more merit based scholarships because I am not applicable for HOPE nor am I applicable for Need based aid. The amount of aid given to students for merit other than HOPE is extremely low, so raising the number of merit scholarships could help to increase the number of academically outstanding out of state students. All of these things will result in positive effects on the Georgia Institute of Technology and allow for more money to flow through the school and to be put back into scholarships.

Colleges all over the nation are being faced with the dilemma of choosing merit or need-based scholarships. They would all benefit from using more merit-based scholarships. I am aware that some people believe that need based aid provides equality to those with less money. I do not agree with this statement. I cannot think of a better way to provide “equality” than by making financial aid blind to all race and color, and judged simply by the work that they have achieved and the intelligence they have worked to enhance. Georgia Tech can help to maintain its quality of students by allowing for merit-based aid to boost academic competition. Merit based aid will provide the most fertile ground for Georgia Tech to flourish academically and in turn give back to it’s students.

Work Cited:

Georgia Institute of Technology. [web page] 1 Jan. 2005.

Selingo, Jeffrey. "Questioning the merit of merit scholarships."
The Chronicle of Higher Education 47 (2001) p. A20. [web page]

Institutional Research & Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology. "Enrollmen in Fall 2004."

Bishop, John H. 2004. “Money and Motivation” Education Next Vol. 4: p62-67

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