POL 1101: U.S. Government
Short Policy Paper: Topic # 2.
Due Date: April 19, 2005.
The perfect scenario for a college student would be to finish his education without worrying about the cost. The only possible way that could happen is if the government can afford to provide free college education for everyone. Reality is that the government only has a limited amount of money to spend on college education.
This “limited resources for unlimited need” situation creates one of the biggest controversies in the students’ world: Who should benefit from the limited resources? A natural answer to that question is: the ones that who deserve it; but this answer leads to another question: Who deserves it? To this new question, we have two valuable answers: One, the academically strong ones and two, the poor ones (those who could not afford college other wise).
After defining how need and merit are related to the concept of College Education, I will show trough several arguments why financial aid should primarily merit based at a school like Georgia Institute of Technology.
Money is just something we can not separate from the concept of college nowadays. It is so relevant to college to the point where the word college is mentioned, most people think about the cost before even thinking about the reason why we go to college (Education). This is not a very surprising reaction given the fact that the cost of college education is growing exponentially every year. This being the case, it is clear that it would be a lot harder for people from middle and lower classes (the needy) to afford college education. Knowledge on the other hand, has always been, is and will remain relevant to school because that is what we seek for when we decide to go to school. The best way for a student to show that he or she is getting that knowledge is through academic achievement. That is why every student (at least the real one) goes to school with the idea to do well in all his classes. If there are words that would never miss in the definition of college education, they would be: learning, success, achievement, academics etc; and all these words can be combined under the word merit. Merit is so relevant to college that even the athletic scholarships require a minimum Grade Point Average.
Moreover, to be able to get a good job later on in life, one needs some kind of qualifications. The main reason why one seeks for college education is to be prepared for the professional life out there. If getting college education is supposed to get us ready for the professional life, then we should be experiencing the realities of the real world throughout college. Truth is, there is no job out there for anyone just for the fact that the person belongs to a specific social class. In other words, there is no need based job. However, there are plenty of merit based jobs out there. In fact, almost all the jobs out there are merit based; even the ones that do not require college degrees. For instance, while filling out application at say a fast food restaurant, there is a whole section on work experience. Some companies even make people take a little test or quiz and that is how they hire their employees.
Also one of the biggest and the most under rated rewards of getting education in general and particularly college education is that inner joy or pride of getting it done; and that joy or pride is even bigger when you know that you got it done in a good way. As a student, nothing feels better than being called a good student; and that title, one can only get it by doing good academically. Not by showing his needs. Almost every kind of awards in the concept of education such as the Dean’s List or the prestigious National Dean’s List that make a student feel so good about himself, can only be given to the students who show some strong academic achievement. There are no awards for the needy. A good illustration of how much importance is given to merit in awarding anything to a student can be found in the book: “How to Pay for Your Degree in Engineering (Schlachter and Weber 2004, 5-244). The book talked about 814 different scholarships. 100% of them required a certain Grade Point Average and only 357 of them required proofs of financial need.
Another way of looking at the whole financial aid situation is that it is an investment that the government makes in the youth. One does not need to be an expert in economics to know that you should only invest in products that will produce some positive results. The way to do that is to study the product and the market. College students being the products that the government is investing in here, there is no better way to tell how good a student will do in college than by looking at how he or she did academically at the pre-college level. Some people will argue by asking how a person can get a chance to prove that he has some potential if he never got a chance to start. My answer to that is that this country is great enough to provide free education in public schools up to high school; and that is plenty of chance to prove anything. A test conducted at Montgomery College in Maryland confirmed that merit is a good way to predict how good a student will do in college. Basically they started two scholarship programs at the same time. One of them was need based and the other one was merit based. Both were for $1,000 per semester (about two third of the cost of the full time tuition). Keep in mind that this is a community college so normally one should graduate from there with an Associates degree in as little as two years. After three years, they school realized that 47% of the students with the need based scholarship graduated and 87% of the students with merit based scholarship graduated. More information on this test can be found on the school’s official website.
To finish, let’s get more specific about Georgia Tech. It is just pure logic for Georgia Tech to primarily give financial aid based on merit because of the whole process of getting into the institution. For Georgia Tech to even look at a student’s financial situation, the student must have been accepted into the school (I’ve been told this by a financial aid advisor at Georgia Tech.); and the number one criteria that Georgia Tech. looks at is the student’s academic performance in the past. I went ahead and double check that information on the Georgia Tech’s financial aid web page. This means that the financial situation of the student is of secondary importance anyway. One of the things that make schools like Georgia Tech. great schools is what it takes to get into those schools. All great schools are known to be hard to get into. Not financially (especially in the case of Georgia Tech. which is a public school); but academically. It just makes so much sense to primarily base the financial aid at Georgia Tech. on merit given that the acceptance to Georgia Tech is primarily based on merit.
Even though need is a very relevant factor to college education, it is only of a secondary importance compared to the relevance of the merit to college education. Moreover, the way the education system is set up in this country allows everybody (from every social class) to get started with his education and prove to be a good product for the government to invest in at the college level. In other words, the system already gives the poor a way around the handicap of poverty.
As we can see throughout the lines above, merit is more relevant to education than need because at the end of the day, it is all about how you did in college academically not financially. Thus financial aid at Georgia Tech. should be primarily merit based rather than need based.
- Schlachter, Gail A. and Weber David R. 2004. How to Pay for Your Degree in Engineering.
- Graves, Denise. 2001. “Need scholarship Vs. Merit scholarship Test.”[web page] May 2001; http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/tests.htm [Accessed 27 Jan 2005].
- McTier, Jerry. 2004. “Eligibility for financial Aid at Georgia Tech.” [web page] Dec2004; http://www.finaid.gatech.edu. [Accessed 18 Dec 2004].
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