Merit-Based or Need-Based Aid?

DEBORAH CHEN
Copy Editor

“How am I going to pay for college?” is a question asked by the students who must rely on grants, scholarships and loans to lessen their financial burden. Despite the many factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding the eligibility of the recipients of financial aid, need-based aid should be a priority over merit-based aid.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application, which determines a student’s eligibility for financial aid, uses a family’s income instead of other wealth indicators, such as home equity, to calculate the Expected Family Contribution.

Nevertheless, not all colleges utilize income to determine the amount of

MOOR Graphic by SIMON ZHAO

aid a student should be offered.

According to the New York Times, a family that had an annual income of only $17,000 was shocked to find out that they were not offered adequate financial aid from certain colleges. They soon realized that this was due to the fact that their home equity was $800,000.

That family should be offered more financial aid, because home equity will not help them pay their college fees. Their only way of paying for college is through their meager income.

However, according to U.S. News, many colleges distribute small merit scholarships for high grades in lieu of meeting the general need of those in the lower bracket income. Though rewarding students for their academic achievements commends their hard work, it becomes a disadvantage for those with pressing financial needs.

Allotting more merit-based aid is in direct contrast with FAFSA’s original purpose. Instead, more money should be distributed to students who do not have access to the necessary funds to pay for their college fees.

If federal aid is designed to overcome the disadvantages of poor family conditions, then it should place priority on need-based aid for applicants who would otherwise be unable to afford college.