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College hopefuls whose families earn too much money to qualify for need-based financial aid but not enough to comfortably afford the cost of college often turn to schools that grant merit aid.
Merit aid is usually reserved for outstanding college applicants whose academic, athletic or artistic skills are well above the norm at a particular school. High-achieving high school seniors may be competitive for this type of scholarship or grant, especially if they apply to a safety school where their GPAs and standardized test scores are above the 75th percentile.
Such students may be particularly interested in schools that give the majority of out-of-state students merit aid.
Among the 340 ranked public schools in the 2022 Best Colleges rankings that reported this information to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average percentage of out-of-state undergraduate students who received non-need-based scholarship or grant aid in fall 2020 was 36.3%.
But among the 10 ranked public schools that provided the most out-of-state students merit aid, the average was 95.3%. Two schools — Purchase College–SUNY and California State University–Fresno — granted the highest proportion of out-of-state students merit aid at 100%.
The average merit aid award for out-of-state undergraduates at these 10 schools varied widely, ranging from $2,872 at California State University–Fresno to $19,780 at Winthrop University in South Carolina.
Three of the 10 schools are in Oklahoma, with one each in California, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio and South Carolina.
One of the 10 schools is a Regional College, an undergraduate-focused institution where most students focus on fields other than the liberal arts. Three are Regional Universities, which offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs but few doctoral programs. Among the six remaining schools, half are National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education and award a majority of their degrees in liberal arts fields, and the other half are National Universities, which focus on research and offer a wide array of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs.
When looking at all ranked public undergraduate institutions that reported merit aid data, the proportion of out-of-state students who received such aid ranged widely. For instance, at 232 of these schools, fewer than half of out-of-state students who enrolled in fall 2020 were awarded merit aid. At 138 of those institutions, fewer than a quarter of out-of-state undergraduate students received a merit scholarship.
At the same time, 104 public colleges and universities awarded merit aid to a majority of their out-of-state students.
In-state applicants often have a competitive advantage when vying for scholarship dollars at public schools, which are funded in part by local tax revenues and have a mandate to educate in-state residents. Nevertheless, many public schools recruit out-of-state students by offering them merit aid. The average merit award granted to out-of-state students at ranked public schools that reported this data to U.S. News was $8,886.
Below is a list of the 10 public institutions that offered merit aid to the greatest percentage of out-of-state undergrad students. 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)||U.S. News rank and category||Percentage of out-of-state students receiving merit aid||Average merit aid award to out-of-state students|
|Purchase College–SUNY||155 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges||100%||$4,788|
|California State University–Fresno||213 (tie), National Universities||100%||$2,872|
|University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma||
168-222, National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Rogers State University (OK)||25 (tie), Regional Colleges (West)||97%||$14,082|
|New College of Florida||82 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges||96%||$19,403|
|University of Central Oklahoma||71 (tie), Regional Universities (West)||95%||$6,925|
|Bowling Green State University (OH)||249 (tie), National Universities||93%||$11,033|
|Winthrop University (SC)||17 (tie), Regional Universities (South)||92%||$19,780|
|Truman State University (MO)||6, Regional Universities (Midwest)||91%||$9,656|
|Mississippi State University||196 (tie), National Universities||91%||$15,871|
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find merit aid statistics, 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 1,850 colleges and universities for our 2021 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 Dec. 22, 2021.
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10 Public Schools That Award Merit Aid to the Most Out-of-State Students originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 12/22/21: This article has been updated with new information based on the results of the 2022 Best Colleges rankings.