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Improving College Aid

...and another perspective

Posted: 2006-10-19

Maybe there are Post readers willing to buy this load but it smells like rotten fish to me.

Comments from Annie: Before you read the following essay, please refresh or inform your perspective with the following definitions in logic:

Appeals to emotion are always fallacious when intended to influence our beliefs.

Strong emotions can subvert rational thought, and playing upon emotions in an argument is often fallacious.

The phrase red herring has a number of metaphorical senses that share the general sense of something being a diversion or distraction from the original objective.

It is a type of logical fallacy in which one purports to prove one's point by means of irrelevant arguments. See Ignoratio elenchi.

The Post editors have out performed themselves with this piece of crap. Why in the world shouldn?t students who work hard in high school, and who maintain a good effort, reap the rewards of their efforts with an opportunity to obtain a scholarship for their efforts? It makes me wonder what exactly the Post?s true interest is in this perspective. I assume it has more to do with finagling greater sources of income for Kaplan than it has to do with their throne on high moral and ethical ground.

Using the argument of financially and socially desperate families being robbed of opportunity by wealthy kids in this context is sensational but really, it doesn?t even fit.

The Post simply infiltrates the discussion of merit-based scholarships with the emotional aspects of another discussion about needs-based scholarship. The tactic flows pathologically in this editorial. Using poverty as a trump card in this case is just bad practice.

The pressing issue is more along the lines of declining federal assistance for college tuition.

It is counter-intuitive for the Post to on one hand point to a reasonable distribution of merit scholarship funds (they say 30% go to the most affluent students and 20% go to the least affluent, I assume the rest is everything in between) and then on the other build an argument against merit scholarships because there are low income students left unable to afford college. Another take on the statistics might easily showcase the 20% at the lowest economic advantage that worked beyond all measure of blockades to achieve the honor and recognition of a merit-based scholarship and go to college.

Maybe there are Post readers willing to buy this load but it smells like rotten fish to me.

Improving College Aid

How to slow the merit-scholarship race

Wednesday, October 18, 2006; A20

WHEN FACULTY, facilities and reputation fail to attract stellar students, many American universities sweeten their admissions offers with cash. So-called merit scholarships can mitigate the bite talented students and their parents feel when tuition bills arrive, and they give colleges a chance to edge out their competitors for the best students.

The problem is that too often, merit money goes to families that don't need the help, to the detriment of need-based financial aid programs. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in the decade ending in the 2003-04 school year -- the last school year for which data are available -- intense competition among colleges caused the amount of cash schools devoted to merit scholarships to shoot up.

School and government merit aid increased from $1.3 billion in 1993 to $7.3 billion in 2003. In 2003-04, according to Pennsylvania State researcher Donald Heller, 30 percent of the merit money colleges distributed went to families that made $92,400 or more a year. Only 20 percent went to families earning $33,350 or less. The amount of need-based aid roughly doubled over the same period, yet many students still find it difficult or impossible to pay for their educations.

A 2002 U.S. Education Department study reported that every year 170,000 qualified high school students will not be able to afford to attend college.

It's good to hear, then, that some colleges are shrinking or dropping their merit scholarship programs. Growing controversy over merit scholarships has convinced institutions such as the University of Florida to lower the amount of money they devote to grants to gifted students.

Ivy League schools offer no merit awards.

The Journal also reported that groups of private colleges in Minnesota and Pennsylvania are considering asking the Justice Department for an exception to federal antitrust rules in order to decrease merit aid in concert. They should, and the Justice Department should give it to them.

Higher education costs are so huge that even raking in six figures does not mean a family can comfortably afford to pay full tuition.

But richer families can apply for financial aid just as poorer ones can, and if more schools got rid of their merit scholarships, colleges that want to attract students would have to plow money into their need-based grant programs -- where it belongs -- instead of handing out inducements to students who don't need them.

? 2006 The Washington Post Company


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