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WITH INCREASING FREQUENCY, private colleges are turning to scholarships based on academic merit as a way to attract high-quality applicants who might otherwise go either to more prestigious schools or to state universities. Caught by increasing tuition costs, unendowed schools seem to be finding they must ignore financial need in distributing scholarship money if they are to continue to create highcaliber students.
The Ivy League schools have been fortunate in that they have not had to turn to merit-based scholarships to attract top-quality students--their prestige has worked as an adequate incentive. None of them has openly considered ending the long-standing agreement under which none of them offer substantial amounts of aid based on merit rather than on financial need, because so far they have not had to in order to compete with other schools.
Seamus P. Malin '62, Harvard's director of financial aid, said last week that in four or five years the Ivy schools may find they are losing students because they do not offer them merit-based scholarships. Nonetheless, the Ivy schools should reaffirm their policy of offering need-based aid only: there is not so much scholarship money available to those who need it that it can be used as a carrot for wealthier students without adversely altering the composition of the student body.
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