Merit aid covers a category of financial aid that refers to grants, scholarships and discounts that a college awards to an admitted student without regard to financial need. Merit aid may be based on academic or athletic achievements, special talents, religious affiliation, family heritage and military affiliation to name just a sampling.
Since merit aid is not awarded on specific criteria made known by financial aid officers, there is a bit of mystery surrounding the system. Some schools award merit aid to decrease the burden on families who may not qualify for financial assistance, but would find today’s sticker price for four years of college burdensome. In other cases, merit aid may be used as an incentive to help colleges attract more competitive students.
Read Ron Lieber’s article in his column, Your Money, to learn more about merit aid. This article in The New York Times offers a tour of four New England colleges and the discounts to tuition they offer to incoming students in the form of merit aid.