College students see rise in merit-based scholarships for test scores

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Alex Libardoni, the top high school senior from his high school in Brattleboro, Vt., recently made his decision of where to attend college next year. After getting into all three schools he applied to, University of Vermont, Cornell University and University of Oklahoma, he had one main factor which he said aided him in making his decision: Scholarship money.

“I got merit scholarships from Oklahoma and UVM and just need based from Cornell,” he said.

Libardoni will attend University of Vermont next year as the recipient of the “Green and Gold” scholarship, which gives a full free ride to the valedictorian of every high school in Vermont.

“The UVM scholarship seemed almost too good to pass up,” he said. “The free undergrad degree means my parents will pay for my graduate degree.”

While he was also considering Cornell, Libardoni says that they only give need-based scholarships which would not have helped out his family enough.

“I needed at least $7,000 a year to help me out and they could only offer me a loan and work study.

In what experts say is a growing trend, schools are granting more merit or non-need based scholarships, grants to students with good test scores or grades, to attract wealthier students to their school.

A study by the Indianapolis based Lumina Foundation for Education, released in 2003, measured the growth in scholarship aid to students from 1995 to 2000. The results: For students from families making $40,000 or less a year of less, scholarship aid increased by 22 percent and for students from families making $100,000 or more, scholarship aid increased by 145 percent.

Experts tell the Washington Post that the growth in merit scholarships can be attributed to two factors: Rising competition between private colleges to attract highly accomplished students, and states granting scholarships to students with good grades to increase enrollment in state schools.

According to officials at the American University, 66 percent of all students receive some form of financial aid. For a year at American University, tuitions and all costs, students will spend over $40,000 on average. At Georgetown University, tuition, room and board and all expenses will cost a student an average of $45,850 a year.

Some students say that with high tuition and not enough aid provided by the university, they have gone through other venues to get help to pay for college.

“In high school, I entered an essay contest from this private donor from my high school and won a small scholarship to help fund my education,” said Gina Garcia, a University of Maryland student from Miami. “I get $1,000 a year from that which isn’t too much but it at least pays for books.”

According to, a website with information to help students fund their college educations, there are many unusual types of scholarships which students can apply for. At Juniata College, in Pennsylvania, students can receive a $1,000 scholarship just for being left-handed.

For students who want to be creative with their prom dresses and suits, there is the Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck on Prom Contest. Entrants must enter as a couple (two individuals) and attend a high school prom wearing complete attire or accessories made entire from duct tape. First prize will win each student a $2,500 scholarship.

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