Financial aid for college has become almost entirely “need-based”, except for athletic scholarships. In the process of writing my previous post about Stanford’s on-line AI course, I looked up what Stanford tuition is, and was directed to a page of statistics about Stanford: Stanford University Common Data Set 2010-2011. In addition to the estimated cost of being a Stanford undergrad (about $55,611), they have statistics on how much is spent on financial aid:
|Need based||Non need based|
|State (i.e., all states)||3,528,578||18,348|
|Institutional (endowment, alumni, or other institutional awards) and external funds awarded by the college excluding athletic aid and tuition waivers||117,012,781||4,845,292|
|Scholarships/grants from external sources (e.g., Kiwanis, National Merit) not awarded by the college||4,301,567||5,699,901|
|Student loans from all sources (excluding parent loans)||1,802,162||5,450,674|
|Federal work study||2,563,595|
|State and other work study employment||2,039,516||1,011,460|
|Total Self Help||6,405,273||6,462,134|
Note that non-need-based awards other than athletic awards are primarily external and total $10.8 million, while non-need-based athletic awards come to $14.1 million. Clearly Stanford aggressively recruits athletes, but not scholars.
Note that they do give a lot of need-based awards, $117 million, which dwarfs all other financial aid. Still, a 2% increase in that funding would wipe out “need-based” loans, and a 6% increase could wipe out all Stanford student loans (well, another 6% to wipe out parent loans as well). Redirecting the non-need-based athletic scholarships could guarantee that no Stanford undergrad took out student loans! I doubt that would ever happen though, as Stanford has long prized athletics over any other art form, at least based on how much they subsidize it.
Of course, Stanford is hardly typical of financial aid. Do other schools provide more merit-based aid?
The UCSC Common Data Set pages are less well formatted, but just as interesting. The total scholarships and grants are $100,995,238 (need-based) and $3,280,555 (non-need-based), so merit-based aid is an even smaller percentage of aid than at Stanford (though more of the merit-based aid is institutional rather than external).
Notably at UCSC loans and work study are bigger than at Stanford, making total self-help much bigger: $45,1121,901 (need-based) and $13,626,044 (non-need-based). Parent loans are also big at UCSC: $1,960,207 need-based and $21,236,029 non-need-based. There are no athletic awards at UCSC.
Students acquire far more debt going to UCSC than going to Stanford. The UC system is no longer a low-cost way to get a first-rate education, and it looks likely to continue to get more expensive while quality declines for as long as we have a government more interested in running the world’s largest prison system than they are in the world’s largest research university.
Merit scholarships have practically disappeared. Only need-based aid and athletic scholarships still exists, which means that bright kids from the middle class are getting squeezed out of college education.