Merit Aid Scrapped

Short Takes

Officials of both Smith and Mt Holyoke colleges recently announced that they will scrap their year-old merit award programs.

The colleges drew sharp criticism last year when they announced that they would grant special scholarships based on academic excellence, breaking a tradition among New England colleges to award aid solely on the basis of need.

Mt Holyoke decided to offer 30 $400 awards to specially selected students, because the college had a surplus of funds after awarding the regular financial and packages. Irma Rabbino, director of public relations, said last year.

But Rabbino said yesterday the program had been unsuccessful, explaining that the yield of students awarded these scholarships was no higher than that of students granted no extra money.

She added that the program had been developed as an experiment to see whether the added monetary incentive would encourage more students to accept Mt. Holyoke's offer of admission.

Smith's Director of Public Relations Ann Shanahan said her school awarded 50 $300 gifts to top candidates to bolster the school's ability to attract top students. Smith's inability to attract enough qualified students prompted it to reduce the size of the incoming class by 10 percent from 615, starting this fall, she added.

Shanahan cited the unchanged yield as one reason for discontinuing the program adding that Smith "didn't want to jeopardize its relationship with other colleges," who opposed its unprecedented move to award merit scholarships.

Concern for other colleges' negative responses also contributed to Mt. Hollyhock's decision to stop its merit awards, Rabbino said.

Officials at both schools said they were looking into other non-monetary incentives to encourage excellence at the secondary school level.

However, officials at Brandeis said that they planed to continue their new merit-based aid program, citing excellent yield among the students receiving the larger awards Twenty-three students, who did not qualify for financial aid and were awarded $4000 a piece, will be attending Brandeis next fall, Kirsten Rupert, associate director of financial aid, said yesterday. Eighteen financial and students granted an additional $2500 each will also enroll this fall, she added.

Both Mt Holyoke and Smith found that the small awards were insufficient to increase yield, James Miller, director of financial aid at Harvard said yesterday. He added that the two colleges probably realized that if the planned to award merit-based scholarships, "they would have to do it in a big way like Brandeis."