Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA to decrease National Merit and Achievement Finalist scholarship package

The University of Alabama plans to reduce scholarship packages for future National Merit and Achievement Finalists classes by covering only one year of on-campus housing, a break from the four-year housing scholarships offered in the past.

“National Merit and National Achievement Finalists continue to receive four years of tuition, a four-year stipend of $1,000 per year, a one-time $2,000 travel abroad or summer research stipend and an iPad,” executive director of Undergraduate Admissions Mary Spiegel said.

She said the change was made to this scholarship package after the University conducted a benchmark study of major competitors including many peer universities from across the country.

Auburn University, however, is poised to offer National Merit Finalists a larger scholarship package than the University when the changes occur.

According to Auburn’s Undergraduate Scholarships website, these students receive four-year tuition for Alabama residents or $60,000 over four years for non-residents, a $1,000 technology stipend, a $2,500 enrichment stipend, on-campus housing for four years and between $4,000 to $8,000 annually depending upon eligibility determined by National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the FAFSA.

Velda Rooker, director of university scholarships at Auburn, said she was unsure when students began receiving a scholarship based on their National Merit designation, but it was more than 10 years ago.

Even though Auburn continues to offer a four-year housing scholarship, Rooker said decisions regarding a change to any scholarship package are communicated by the end of June for the upcoming academic year.

“While the on-campus housing stipend for the National Scholars Presidential Scholarship has been discussed, a decision regarding a change in that benefit has not been made at this time,” she said.

In the past, students with a four-year housing scholarship have been able to live in on-campus apartments like East Edge, creating more of an off-campus, independent environment.

East Edge, however, will no longer be available to students next year since the Housing and Residential Communities lease was only for one academic year and ends this May, Alicia Browne, director of housing administration, said.

“Students with housing scholarships will have a variety of other options on campus,” Browne said. “Students could also choose other suite-style buildings or on-campus apartments like the Highlands or Bryce Lawn.”

Despite the apparent growing lack of housing options, many students fear that not offering a full housing scholarship may cause the University to slip in upcoming years in the enrollment of National Merit and Achievement students.

Claire Harper, a junior and current recipient of the National Merit scholarship package, said many of her friends with the scholarship have said they think it will slow the enrollment rate, especially with out-of-state students.

“I can understand why they wanted to change it,” Harper said. “Having so many students that are guaranteed housing just isn’t sustainable. The University increased enrollment too fast without putting the infrastructure in place to support that number of students.”

Adam Beg, a junior majoring in biology and chemistry, said the National Merit package had a huge influence on his college decision.

“I stayed at UA because they made me an offer that was difficult to refuse when I knew I had to pay for medical school as well,” he said. “I couldn’t justify leaving town since I am from Tuscaloosa, and paying more for what I don’t see as my final degree.”

While he agrees the four-year housing scholarship was a big draw, Beg doesn’t think the switch to only covering one year of housing will hurt the University’s National Merit recruitment.

“While it is a significant cut to the scholarship, since dorms here are up to four times as expensive as off-campus housing, and UA has been having housing troubles with the rapid expansion, this provides a way to increase space.”

Cathy Andreen, director of media relations, said more than 600 National Merit Scholars and 100 National Achievement Scholars are currently enrolled at UA; however, Rooker confirmed that Auburn was not far behind with 400 National Merit Scholars enrolled on their campus.

With these figures in mind, the University was ranked second in the nation in 2011 among public universities in the enrollment of National Merit Scholars, according to an Admissions webpage. While the 2012 rankings are not out yet, the University continued to increase the enrollment of these prestigious students this year.

“There were 239 National Merit Finalists in the fall 2012 freshman class, an increase of 32 percent over fall 2011, when there were 181 National Merit Finalists,” Spiegel said.

Following that trend, Spiegel explained the fall 2012 freshman class was composed of 42 National Achievement Finalists, up from 30 in 2011.

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