Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Cal Panel Flunks NMS Program

The Times has it here: Faculty Panel at Cal Faults Way to Pick Merit Scholars

Apparently the faculty committee has asked the UC system to consider pulling out of the National Merit Scholarship Program, since it finds fault with the selection process, with its emphasis on PSAT and SAT scores, and the lack of correlation between need and awards. Although student essays, high school transcripts and recommendations are used to pick the 15,000 finalists, critics argue that the use of the PSAT disadvantages minority students in much the same way that the SAT is thought to. Such a critique coming from the Cal system could be very influential, since the decision by the system to disregard SAT scores 4 years ago contributed to the addition of an essay t0 the new SAT.

Dartmouth does not offer scholarships through the National Merit program, but a number of Dartmouth students receive recognition from the program at some level. The UC committee's critique is interesting because of the issues it raises about the distribution of scholarships based solely on merit and the use of need in deciding who receives aid. At what point is merit itself not sufficient grounds for a scholarship, and how important should need be? These are difficult questions that become more and more pressing as a college education becomes more expensive and decisions about who receives financial aid and how much become more delicate.

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