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Cornell to Offer Merit-Based Aid

Big Red Breaks Ivy Need-Based Standard

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Breaking with other Ivy League admissions policies, Cornell University will offer non-need based financial aid to selected members from its class of 2001, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Don A. Saleh.

The "Cornell Research Scholars Program" will target 75 of the school's most talented prospective students and offer the opportunity to conduct paid research with individual professors.

Students who qualify for financial aid can opt to have their student loans reduced by up to $2,500 annually, Saleh said.

"The selection of students for this program will be made without regard for this need," Saleh said. "These are the students we regard as being academically at the top of the pool."

Saleh said the incentive packages do not constitute merit-based aid but said the program will not consider the financial need of students.

The program is not an entirely new concept at Cornell, Saleh said. Merit has been considered within its need-based financial aid system for some time, he said.

Under its current policy, Cornell offers special financial aid packages to students based on their scholastic potential.

"We offer better programs to some students than others," he said.

According to Harvard's Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons '67, Harvard has in the past offered very limited merit incentives for students on financial aid but discontinued the practice four years ago.

All of Harvard's student aid is now based on financial need.

Fitzsimmons said he agreed that Cornell's announced plan does not qualify as a merit scholarship program so long as it is only presented as a part of an incentive package.

Harvard, however, has no plans to change its system, he said.

"We don't do it, and we don't intend to do it," Fitzsimmons said. "It is important to treat all students the same in terms of financial aid."

Ultimately, Fitzsimmons said, administrators must ask if the money for any new financial aid program could be better spent.

"The money that is directed to resources [like Cornell's new program] is money that, in the long run, does not end up directed to financial aid or other important programs," Fitzsimmons said.

Cornell's program started when a group of potential donors expressed interest in creating a financial aid program to help Cornell recruit students.

"We saw that there was a lot of interest in research and we wanted to show [prospective students] undergraduates at Cornell are engaging in research," Saleh said.

Students for this program will be chosen by a special committee after they pass admissions, Saleh said.

The program has not been made a part of Cornell's application or its promotional literature, he said.

"We're not advertising it dramatically, but we may talk about it to some students at this point," Saleh said.

Students will be informed of their eligibility for this program at the same time they are admitted to the school, he said.

"It will make a difference for some, and for some it will not," Saleh said.

Fitzsimmons said he is skeptical about the ability of such programs to draw students.

"In terms of a merit award, it usually takes a large sum to turn a student's head," he said

Students will be informed of their eligibility for this program at the same time they are admitted to the school, he said.

"It will make a difference for some, and for some it will not," Saleh said.

Fitzsimmons said he is skeptical about the ability of such programs to draw students.

"In terms of a merit award, it usually takes a large sum to turn a student's head," he said

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