50-50 Highlights: 33 Public Colleges for Merit Aid

Piggy bank on calculator representing best public colleges for merit aidMerit scholarships from colleges aren’t simply a way for schools to reward students for accomplishments, it’s part of the supply and demand of paying for college. Colleges use merit aid as a way to increase the supply of “accomplished” students at their schools. This is why the most competitive colleges in the country such as Princeton and Harvard don’t offer merit scholarships–they have no problem attracting high achieving students to their schools.

In general, merit aid is associated with private schools. Most students that would qualify for merit aid at a private college will find that their state flagship universities aren’t worried about providing incentives to attend them. Like the most selective schools in the country, they aren’t hurting for quality students since they charge so much less for tuition.

However, there are some public universities where students are more likely to receive merit scholarships than others. Some colleges may do this so that they can raise their academic reputation in the state. Some are trying to keep students from leaving the state and others are trying to convince students out-of-state to come.

Therefore, students who know that aren’t likely to qualify for need-based aid at their public universities, might consider such schools. The list below shows 33 50-50 schools where at least 15% of freshman received non-need based aid according to CollegeData.com.

You need to be careful using these numbers. According to the definition, the gift aid can come from sources other than just the institution. This includes state sponsored merit programs and out-side scholarships.

Yet chances are the schools are contributing significantly to merit aid based on the percentage of freshman receiving institutional aid. These schools tend to have a higher percentage of freshman receiving institutional grants, an average of 65% compared to 48% for all public 50-50 colleges. The higher the percentage of freshman receiving grants, the more likely that students without need are getting some of the money.

There are only 21 states that have schools on the 50-50 Public Colleges for Merit Aid list. New Hampshire and South Carolina have the most with three each. As usual, for 50-50 schools the five-year graduation rate is used for public schools.

50-50 Public Colleges for Merit Aid


Listing of best public colleges for merit aid that accept at least 50% of students and have a 50% graduation rate.

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