13 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 matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Soaring tuition costs have made college an expensive proposition, prompting students to accrue debt that often takes years to pay off, but merit aid can provide some relief. Since merit aid does not have to be paid back it offers students the chance to navigate their financial journey in a way that can keep overall costs down.

[See: 17 Things to Know About Merit Aid Scholarships.]

Colleges often offer merit aid as a way to attract star students, and these funds are not related to financial need. Typically a student must demonstrate academic prowess, artistic talent or athletic abilities to land merit aid.

How these funds are distributed is determined by colleges individually. Some schools, such as those in the Ivy League, offer no merit aid at all, though member schools often use other types of aid to cover their students’ financial need. Additionally, merit aid may be awarded by local or national organizations, such as the National Merit Scholarship Corp., which uses PSAT scores to determine who receives merit aid scholarships.

The average percentage of students receiving merit aid for the 2019-2020 school year was about 15% among the 1,031 ranked colleges that reported this data to U.S. News in an annual survey. But among the 13 schools that awarded merit aid to the most students, including ties, the average was around 46%.

[Read: Strategies for Students Too Rich for Financial Aid, Too Poor for College.]

Trinity University in Texas tops this list, awarding merit aid to 53% of students in 2019-2020.

All 13 of the colleges on this list are private institutions, and they are geographically diverse, stretching from coast to coast across the U.S.

Six of these schools are National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees across liberal arts fields, while four are National Universities, institutions that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Of the remaining schools on the list, two are Regional Universities, which typically offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs but limited doctoral programs, and one is a Regional College, a category defined by a focus on undergraduate education but comprising schools that grant fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines.

Below is a list of the 13 ranked colleges where the highest percentage of full-time students in 2019-2020 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.

Trinity University (TX) 53% 1, Regional Universities (West)
Samford University (AL) 50% 143 (tie), National Universities
The University of the South (TN) 49% 47 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Gonzaga University (WA) 48% 80 (tie), National Universities
Fairfield University (CT) 46% 3, Regional Universities (North)
Furman University (SC) 45% 52 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Guilford College (NC) 44% 155 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Hillsdale College (MI) 44% 54 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Puget Sound (WA) 44% 84 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (NY) 43% 2, Regional Colleges (North)
Rhodes College (TN) 43% 54 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Dayton (OH) 43% 133 (tie), National Universities
University of Denver 43% 80 (tie), National Universities

Don’t see your school in the top 10? 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 2020 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 comes 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 merit aid data above is correct as of March 9, 2021.

More from U.S. News

10 Public Schools That Award Merit Aid to the Most Out-of-State Students

How You Can Win a National Merit Scholarship

How to Find and Secure Scholarships for College

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

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