This semester, Central Michigan University sponsored and awarded 7,489 merit-based grants and 2,405 needs-based grants – a roughly 75/25 split between the two. Although it would appear CMU is more focused on awarding merit-based money, university officials are citing an increased effort to balance that number by offering more needs-based monies.
And that makes sense. As costs continue to soar, it’s important to ease the financial burden students are increasingly feeling.
But at the same time, we don’t have unlimited funding.
As Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Kirk Yats said, we need to find the “sweet spot” that gives the largest amount of students possible the greatest amount of chances to receive money.
Merit-based grants typically attract the ideal CMU students. They’re awarded to those who “go the extra mile,” so to speak. They are the students who set the bar at CMU. While these students might not always have a significant need for college funding, it’s important to reward those who have earned it in an academic sense.
However, needs-based grants, which typically go to prospective students who are struggling to afford ever-increasing tuition and room and board rates, are just as important. Since cost is such a vital factor for many students when they decide where to attend college, it’s vital that CMU has the ability to help those students.
In a time when students might be struggling to afford tuition, needs-based grants help ease the pressure many students face. Without the constant fear of a hefty tuition bill, perhaps students who otherwise would have ended up dropping out will remain enrolled all four years.
Attracting new students is always important, especially at a time when on-campus undergraduate enrollment is projected to be down by 5 to 7 percent. But, so is holding CMU to the academic standard that we’ve all come to expect. It’s absolutely essential that CMU does not sacrifice our admissions standards, and as far as we can see, it hasn’t.
Although enrollment is down, applications are at an all-time high this year. While unfinished applications make up a percentage of that number, it’s important to note that CMU isn’t sacrificing admissions standards to battle the enrollment issue.
The typical merit-based grant awardee is going to go to college where they want to go, not based on where they can afford, like needs-based grant awardees. So, ultimately, it’s important to keep a balance so those who excel will want to come here, and those who need help can receive it.
There is no right percentage when it comes to determining how many merit and needs-based scholarships to give out, because outside factors are constantly changing. But as things stand right now, the decision to push for more needs-based scholarship will keep students’ key interests in check.
The university is doing something practical that can help both CMU and the students it enrolls. That is a step in the right direction.