Wendler, Rasberry the place of scholarships in higher ed philanthropy

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(Editor’s Note: Second in a series on philanthropy in higher education.)

Scholarships have always been central in higher education philanthropy. As costs for higher education, both public and private, increase, the impact and importance of student financial support have escalated. Over the past 40 years, the consumer price index reveals a net increase in general goods and services of 232%. Over that same period, college costs grew by over 1,200%. In short, the cost of college has increased six times that of general living costs. The reasons for the difference are many. However, private giving for students through scholarships has never been more important.

Two kinds of scholarships are typically granted to students: need-based and merit-based. A recent study reveals that 16% of all scholarships awarded were need-based, and 18% were merit-based. According to the report, nearly $ 9 billion was awarded in need-based scholarships. In 2019–2020, merit aid was awarded to 22% of undergraduates. One in eight students is likely to receive a scholarship. One in four students at private universities received merit aid, while less than one in five students at public universities received merit aid. As selectivity increases, typically, scholarship availability also increases. Six in 10 moderately selective universities provided aid, whereas less than three in 10 universities identified as less selective provided aid.

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