Beyond the Burg: UT ends National Merit Scholarship program

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September 4, 2009

3:54 AM

The University of Texas — Austin is ending its National Merit Scholarship program next fall, citing budget concerns and a shift in focus toward need-based aid.

According to the Associated Press, the UT Office of Student Financial Services released a statement saying “the financial constraints brought about by the economy on families and the university require the redirection of resources to ensure accessibility to UT — Austin by all qualified students, regardless of ability to pay.”

National Merit Scholars already enrolled in UT will still receive scholarships worth $13,000 over the course of four years as long as they maintain a GPA of at least 3.25.

“Some people mistakenly feel that this is a signal that UT — Austin is no longer interested in recruiting high-achieving students. That’s not the case,” Thomas Melecki, the university’s director of student financial services, told the Houston Chronicle.

Melecki told the Austin American-Statesman that the need for financial aid increased by 10 percent from last year and over 23 percent from the year before. He also told Inside Higher Ed that only a quarter of UT’s National Merit Scholars apply for federal financial aid.

Over $4.4 million was spent on UT’s National Merit Scholarship program last year, and the university has the second highest number of National Merit Scholars in the country, just four less than Harvard University.

Harvard, the University of California — Los Angeles and the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor do not offer scholarships based purely on a student’s designation as National Merit Scholar.

The UC system withdrew from the National Scholarship Merit Program in 2006 because it relied on standardized testing.

However, Melecki maintains that UT’s move is not a criticism of the program.

“We’re making sure we get the word out to National Merit Semifinalists that we have a number of scholarships at the University based in part or in whole on merit,” Melecki said to The Daily Texan. “They’ll continue to have the opportunity to compete for those scholarships.”

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