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Merit Aid Lacks Merit, says former Baseball Commissioner

WASHINGTON, DC, June 7, 2005 -- The Educational Policy Institute, a non-profit international think tank on educational opportunity, released the first of their Policy Perspectives series on education, with "No Merit in These Scholarships," written by former Major League Baseball Commissioner and University Trustee Fay Vincent.


Mr. Vincent, a Yale law graduate and a former trustee at Williams College, Carleton College, and Fairfield University, takes a look at the escalating issue of increased merit-based aid in lieu of aid to deserving students from low-income families. “To my mind, merit-based aid betrays the original goal of helping worthy but disadvantaged students," says Vincent."It spends donors’ money in a way they may not intend, and it invests college resources in short-term promotional advantage instead of lasting improvements of substance.”


According to the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP), state need-based aid grew from $304 million to $1.2 billion dollars — an increase of approximately 400 percent between 1993-94 and 2002-03 (inflation adjusted). Comparatively, stated need-based aid grew from $2.75 billion to $3.97 billion, an increase of 144 percent. While the need-based aid pot is larger, the trend is unmistakable.


"There is nothing inherently wrong with merit-based aid," says EPI President Watson Scott Swail. "The problem is when we loose the balance between need and non-need-based aid. Unfortunately, that's what has happened over the course of the past decade."


Mr. Vincent notes that need-based aid is central to our vision of higher education in America. “There is something noble about giving money to talented young people who could not pursue their education without it,” says Mr. Vincent. "I know what that gift can accomplish, and I am grateful. I wonder how grateful the recipients of merit aid will be."


"No Merit in These Scholarships" is a reprint of a recent oped in the Washington Post (May 29, 2005). To download the report, please click here.


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The Educational Policy Institute (EPI), a non-partisan research organization with offices in Washington, DC, Toronto, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia, is dedicated to policy-based research on educational opportunity for all students. The mission of EPI is to expand educational opportunity for low-income and other historically-underrepresented students through high-level research and analysis.



Dr. Watson Scott Swail, (877) e-POLICY