10 Colleges Where Most Students Receive Merit Aid

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Courtesy of US News Education

Many students at these schools received money that wasn’t based on their financial situation.

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

In a college financial aid award letter, there are several types of aid an admitted student may see. One is student loans: “self-help aid” you’ll have to pay back. Another is need-based aid, such as Pell grants, awarded based on your family’s financial situation.

[Fill out the FAFSA to apply for need-based aid.]

A third type, merit aid, is neither income-dependent nor a future financial burden. Merit aid may be awarded for outstanding academic achievement or for other reasons not tied to academics. (Athletic scholarships were not included in the calculations below.)

On average, 13 percent of students who had no financial need received some amount of merit grants or scholarships for the 2011-2012 school year, according to data reported by 1,084 colleges to U.S. News in the 2012 annual survey.

At some colleges, merit aid awards are much more common. Belhaven University in Mississippi awarded more than 88 percent of entering students non-need-based aid for 2011-2012. And elsewhere in the state, nearly half of entering students received merit aid at Mississippi College.

But students hoping for merit aid don’t have to restrict their college search to Mississippi; colleges in Virginia, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee, among other states, also offered merit aid to some of the highest percentages of students in 2011-2012.

[See the full list of colleges that award merit aid to the most students.]

Many schools on the top 10 list below are designated by U.S. News as Regional Colleges, which focus on undergraduate education and grant fewer than half their degrees in liberal arts subjects. Unranked schools, which do not submit enough data in U.S. News‘s annual survey for a numerical ranking to be calculated, were not eligible for this list.

These 10 colleges awarded merit aid to the highest percentages of their student bodies for the 2011-2012 school year.

School (state) Percent of students who received non-need-based aid in 2011-2012 U.S. News rank & category
Belhaven University (MS) 88.2% 74, Regional Universities (South)
Ferrum College (VA) 78.9% 42, Regional Colleges (South)
Cooper Union (NY) 68.4% 1, Regional Colleges (North)
Blue Mountain College (MS) 50.4% 23, Regional Colleges (South)
Armstrong Atlantic State University (GA) 48% RNP*, Regional Universities (South)
Hillsdale College (MI) 47.8% 96, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Mississippi College 47.8% 30, Regional Universities (South)
Denison University (OH) 45.6% 49, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Mayville State University (ND) 43.8% 51, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
Rhodes College (TN) 42.2% 52, National Liberal Arts Colleges

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find information about financial aid and scholarships, as well as complete rankings and much more.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2012 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’s data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’s rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The merit aid data above are correct as of Oct. 30, 2012.


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