12 Colleges That Give Merit Aid to the Most Students

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, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search.

Many colleges and universities offer discounts and scholarships to students who don’t have a demonstrated financial need in the form of merit aid.

These awards are often granted to students based on a specific talent or academic ability. For instance, National Merit Finalists or National Hispanic Scholars may receive special scholarship opportunities at participating institutions.

[Read: How You Can Win a National Merit Scholarship.]

At each of the 12 ranked colleges where merit scholarships were awarded to the most students, at least 41 percent of full-time students in fall 2017 received such awards, according to data submitted to U.S. News by schools in an annual survey. These colleges gave merit aid at a much higher rate than the average among the 1,107 ranked schools that reported these data: 14 percent.

The school that awarded the most merit aid — Trinity University in Texas — gave out awards to nearly half of its 2,359 undergraduates in fall 2017.

Among the 12 ranked institutions that dished out the most in merit aid, the majority are National Liberal Arts Colleges — schools that emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study.

Some higher education experts say merit aid may reduce financial resources for needy students. Several highly ranked National Universities — schools that offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs — do not award merit scholarships. A few examples include Brown University in Rhode Island, Yale University in Connecticut and Stanford University in California; these schools also offer no-loan financial aid policies for students who qualify for need.

[Read: 5 Strategies for Appealing a College Financial Aid Package.]

There are also several schools that reserve merit aid awards for exceptional circumstances. Among the ranked schools that submitted these data, slightly more than 200 colleges and universities awarded 5 percent or less in merit aid to full-time students.

Below is a list of the 12 ranked colleges where the highest percentage of full-time students in fall 2017 received merit aid. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (state) Percentage of full-time students awarded merit aid in 2017-2018 U.S. News rank and category
Trinity University (TX) 49% 2, Regional Universities (West)
Furman University (SC) 48% 51 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Samford University (AL) 47% 4, Regional Universities (South)
University of Puget Sound (WA) 47% 72 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Cooper Union (NY) 46% 1, Regional Colleges (North)
Hillsdale College (MI) 44% 76 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Rhodes College (TN) 44% 51 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
College of Wooster (OH) 42% 67, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Gonzaga University (WA) 42% 4, Regional Universities (West)
Birmingham-Southern College (AL) 41% 131 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Denison University (OH) 41% 43 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Oberlin College (OH) 41% 30 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges

Don’t see your school in the top 12? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find financial aid data, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2018 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ 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’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The financial aid data above are correct as of Nov. 20, 2018.

More from U.S. News

10 Things to Know About Merit Aid Scholarships

An Ultimate Guide to Understanding College Financial Aid

Ultimate Guide: How to Find and Secure Scholarships for College

12 Colleges That Give Merit Aid to the Most Students originally appeared on usnews.com

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