Editor's Note: Many major news outlets have covered this announcement. Here are links to stories that appeared in USA Today, InsideHigherEd.com and Boston Globe.
Hamilton College will no longer offer merit scholarships, beginning with the first-year class that enrolls in the fall of 2008. "We are discontinuing our merit scholarship program so that we can provide more need-based aid," said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer. "We believe we are the first college or university in the U.S. to abandon its merit scholarship program."
Approximately 5 percent of Hamilton's $21 million financial aid budget is spent on merit aid, according to Inzer. The new policy will reallocate about $1 million each year for additional need-based aid.
Inzer said demographers predict a college student population with greater financial need in the coming decade, and colleges and universities must prepare for that reality.
"We have been and plan to continue being a college that meets the full demonstrated need of each student we accept," Inzer said. "Our intent is to grow our financial aid resources over time, and this is another step toward accomplishing that objective."
Hamilton has awarded a limited number of merit scholarships since 1997. On average, 15-20 students out of a first-year class of 470 have received merit scholarships of up to half tuition.
Inzer said Hamilton is in a strong position to make the change in policy now. She cited the college's record numbers of applications and the increasingly stronger academic credentials of entering students. The college recently announced that it had received 16 percent more applications than a year ago and 8 percent more than its record total in 2001. The average SAT scores for entering students is approaching 1350, and nearly three-quarters graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
"Hamilton has a reputation for being a school of opportunity," Inzer said. "A larger percentage of Hamilton students receive need-based aid than nearly all of our peer colleges. This change in policy will help us sustain that legacy."
More than half of all Hamilton students receive need-based financial aid. The average financial aid package (grant, work-study, loan) for those students exceeds $26,000. The College's current capital campaign seeks to raise $35 million for additional student scholarship endowment.
Students currently receiving merit aid and those members of the Class of 2011 who receive merit scholarships will have those commitments honored for the duration of their undergraduate career at Hamilton.
Listen to Jasmyn Belcher's interview with Monica Inzer on NPR affiliate WRVO.