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National Merit Scholars; Lavish $85,000 scholarships (link)

  • An out-of-state National Merit Scholar who commits to OU will receive a scholarship that, according to an OU website dedicated to their recruitment, is valued at $85,000. Need isn't a consideration when awarding these scholarships. No other university in the region even approaches such a gift to entice students. In 2009, the University of Texas abandoned its participation in the National Merit Scholarship program due to difficult economic conditions and in order to focus available funding on all students who need financial aid.

    Read more: http://newsok.com/ou-should-freeze-national-merit-recruitment-for-now/article/3571552#ixzz1Na6lO0ac

    In my opinion, OU should replace this lavish use of taxpayers' and students' money with a reasonable program to recruit good students from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas. Program should probably be moderately generous on tuition.

    Lose the lavish give away of other people's money. The link article is very good. OU: How many of these students graduate and live in Oklahoma?

    This post was edited by Pragmatic 3 years ago

  • I disagree w the author. I think it will benefit OU in the long run to have distinguished alumni who give rep to the University. It's just like recruiting 5 star athletes, but in academics.

  • I think the article is off point. Unless things have changed since I was coming out of high school (and I don't think they have), OSU offers virtually the same deal that OU does. When I was looking at schools, the only difference in the national merit deals offered by OU and OSU was $250 per year. Also, both deals were essentially the full cost of tuition, fees, books, room, and board, with just a very little extra for other expenses - basically the full cost of education. Many other schools - Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, etc. - offer similar financial aid deals to students who are strong enough to get in so long as they are poor enough to qualify for the aid. Of course, I realize there is no need-based component to the OU deal, but the idea is to try to compete with the top school for some of the top students, and if you don't offer a pretty sweet deal, you are not going to get them. I can also tell you that OU and OSU are not the only schools that offer full rides to top students. Some other schools do too, though they may not tie the awards to the national merit program. Whether it is wise to use the national merit competition as the primary basis for deciding which students get full rides is a legitimate issue for debate, but I have no problem with giving full rides to attract top students, whatever the criteria.

    Finally, it should be noted that many of the national merits at OU are from Oklahoma (in fact, I believe most of them are from Oklahoma). Without the outstanding financial aid offers, I would be willing to bet that most of those students would leave the state to go to bigger name schools. So in a very real sense, OU is preventing a major brain drain from the state and improving the university's perception by making attracting financial aid offers to top students from Oklahoma high schools (as well as to some top students from other states). Univ. of Texas does not have to worry about this as much, become it is the flagship state university for one of the biggest states in the country (and widely considered a top 10 public university in its own right - not Harvard, but good enough to draw many top students based on academics and the reduced price of in-state tuition). As a final piece of anecdotal evidence, a friend of mine who is originally from Tennessee attended OU solely because of the great National Merit financial aid package. She wound up winning an award as the top math major at OU, earned her MBA at OU, and now lives and works in the Norman area. In her case, at least, I think Oklahoma got exactly what it bargained for (and more) by offering her a full ride.

    This post was edited by SoonerBeau 3 years ago

  • It's an opinion article. The author makes his point clearly. You can either agree or disagree. And he supports it with solid discussion. Rather than award lavish $85,000 scholarships, OU should spread the money out. Texas ditched a similar program. There is some evidence that similar schools to OU are beating OU for some good solid students. That is because OSU offers reasonable amounts that OU can't or won't match.

    Here is the excerpt the author uses to support his opinion: "OU's recruitment of these students is unrivaled in the region and is one of the most lucrative packages given to incoming Merit Scholar freshmen of any public university in the country. An out-of-state National Merit Scholar who commits to OU will receive a scholarship that, according to an OU website dedicated to their recruitment, is valued at $85,000.

    Need isn't a consideration when awarding these scholarships. No other university in the region even approaches such a gift to entice students."

    " In 2009, the University of Texas abandoned its participation in the National Merit Scholarship program due to difficult economic conditions and in order to focus available funding on all students who need financial aid."

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by Pragmatic 3 years ago

  • Our son was an in-state National Merit Scholar two years ago. He received letters from several schools offering him scholarships valued at up to $66,000 (Texas Tech).
    OU's value was around $45,000, yet of course he was in-state.
    And of course he chose OU.
    Now after two years he has almost 100 credit hours with only two Bs.
    He loves the Business School.
    He's also been very active in the community through his fraternity.
    I'd say for him, (and for me), it's been a great program.

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    It's an opinion article. The author makes his point clearly. You can either agree or disagree. And he supports it with solid discussion. Rather than award lavish $85,000 scholarships, OU should spread the money out. Texas ditched a similar program. There is some evidence that similar schools to OU are beating OU for some good solid students. That is because OSU offers reasonable amounts that OU can't or won't match.

    Here is the excerpt the author uses to support his opinion: "OU's recruitment of these students is unrivaled in the region and is one of the most lucrative packages given to incoming Merit Scholar freshmen of any public university in the country. An out-of-state National Merit Scholar who commits to OU will receive a scholarship that, according to an OU website dedicated to their recruitment, is valued at $85,000.

    Need isn't a consideration when awarding these scholarships. No other university in the region even approaches such a gift to entice students."

    " In 2009, the University of Texas abandoned its participation in the National Merit Scholarship program due to difficult economic conditions and in order to focus available funding on all students who need financial aid."

    UT may have dropped the program, but that doesn't mean that OU should. While I love OU, it does not have the overall academic strength or reputation (or applicant pool) of Texas, though the gap has been closing in part due to OU's ability to attract top students through generous scholarship offers. If I were the person at OU that decided how to distribute scholarship funds, I probably would not tie it as heavily to the national merit program, but I would still be very much in favor of offering full rides to the top students, however those students are identified (and I would not consider such awards to be lavish - it is quite normal for schools to offer full rides to top students or sometimes merely to poor students). If the author thinks OU would be just as strong if not stronger by choosing not to do so, I think he is wrong. Spreading the money around a bit more might not be a bad idea, but if it comes at the cost of being able to offer top-notch scholarship packages to the top students, then it would only hurt OU in the long run. To the extent the author is really focusing his criticism on the award of scholarships to non-Oklahoma students, I can see where he is coming from, but I think he is missing two critical points. First, many (I believe most) of the OU national merits are from Oklahoma. Second, the nevertheless significant number of national merits attracted to OU from outside of Oklahoma have helped to build the strength of OU's student body, and very few of those students would have come to OU without the supposedly "lavish" scholarship package.

    In an earlier post, I mentioned that when I was coming out of high school, OU and OSU offered almost the same package to national merit finalists/scholars. That was probably only for in-state students. I pulled up the info for what OSU offers to out-of-state national merit students, and while it is not quite what OU offers, it is not that much different. Here is a rundown of the differences,

    OU's
    22,000 - OSRHE Scholarship
    Full waiver of Non-resident part of tuition
    $5,000 Nat. Merit Stipend
    $2,000/yr waiver of portion of resident tuition
    $1,500 laptop freshman allowance
    $1,500 stipend for travel to partner schools

    OSU's
    22,000 - OSRHE Scholarship
    Full waiver of non-resident part of tuition (value is lower than OU's simply because OSU charges less for out of state tuition)
    $4,000 Nat. Merit Stipend (so $1,000 less than OU's)
    no waiver of in-state portion of tuition (so $2,000/yr less than OU's)
    not sure if OSU offers a laptop stipend
    not sure if OSU has a travel stipend for study at partner universities

    Note that neither package is a full ride. In both cases, out of state students still have to pay part of the cost of education, though I believe in-state students do get full rides. These are attractive, fairly comparable offers, with OU's being a little more attractive, but I would hardly call them lavish. Many schools offer full or close to full rides for top students.

    This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by SoonerBeau 3 years ago

  • MannaSooner said... (original post)

    He loves the Business School. He's also been very active in the community through his fraternity. I'd say for him, (and for me), it's been a great program.

    OK. This is good to read. I am partial to the OU Business School. He got a great great package from OU. And Tech offered a great package, too. The student and his family are very fortunate - due to his good work in school.

    I can only add that maybe OU could have spread the scholarship funds around to 1 or more ADDITIONAL students. But, this is a good outcome. And, there are no doubt other similar examples. Boomer Sooner.

  • SoonerBeau said... (original post)

    UT may have dropped the program, but that doesn't mean that OU should. While I love OU, it does not have the overall academic strength or reputation (or applicant pool) of Texas, though the gap has been closing in part due to OU's ability to attract top students through generous scholarship offers. If I were the person at OU that decided how to distribute scholarship funds, I probably would not tie it as heavily to the national merit program, but I would still be very much in favor of offering full rides to the top students,

    That's an interesting post with some solid discussion. I want OU to get a good return on OU's investment. I think that spreading the scholarship funds around to other smart guys and ladies - rather than concentrating on the super National Merit student - would help OU get more good kids on campus.

    OU should constantly observe peer schools - especially the Texas schools and OSU. OU should be humble enough to learn and consider what they do. That's not saying OU does not do that. But OU should always know what the competition is up to. And learn from the competition.

    Boomer Sooner.

    This post was edited by Pragmatic 3 years ago

  • nm

    This post was edited by SoonerInTN 13 months ago

  • SoonerInTN said... (original post)

    As someone who now lives outside Oklahoma, I'm not sure I would even have my son consider OU without a full scholarship like the national merit program.

    This is to me a good example of why OU should get rid of the lavish $85,000 National Merit Scholarships.. OU should not feel they need to recruit your son. There's no shortage of kids who WANT to attend OU without a lavish scholarship. And these kids are smart students.

    There are many smart kids in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas that are excellent students. These students don't feel entitled to a lavish scholarhip in order to attend OU. Just a modest, competitive scholarship that matches what OSU or Texas Tech offers.

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    There's no shortage of kids who WANT to attend OU without a lavish scholarship. And these kids are smart students.

    Not sure I agree with this.
    Where do you get this information please?

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    This is to me a good example of why OU should get rid of the lavish $85,000 National Merit Scholarships.. OU should not feel they need to recruit your son. There's no shortage of kids who WANT to attend OU without a lavish scholarship. And these kids are smart students.

    There are many smart kids in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas that are excellent students. These students don't feel entitled to a lavish scholarhip in order to attend OU. Just a modest, competitive scholarship that matches what OSU or Texas Tech offers.

    nm

    This post was edited by SoonerInTN 13 months ago

  • I still disagree with the characterization of the scholarship packages as lavish. Let's take a look at what an out-of-state national merit finalist has to pay at OU to attend school. The information below was taken from OU's website. It shows that the out-of-state national merit package still falls about $50,000 short of the total cost of education for 5 years.

    Yearly Cost for Non-Residents at OU

    Non-Resident Tuition/Fees* $18,295
    Room & Board $7,826
    Books $1,030
    Non-Resident Total $27,151

    Add this up over 5 years (that is the length of the scholarship offer; note that I will even neglect the inevitable tuition and fee hikes which will make this cost higher), and you get a total cost of about $136,000, which does not even count some costs that other schools consider part of the cost of education when they compose aid packages (e.g., travel, health insurance, modest entertainment and clothing allowances).

    If you subtract the $85,000-90,000 in scholarships, out-of-state students are still left at about $50,000 short of a full ride (albeit for 5 years instead of 4)! I don't think that is lavish. Also, we should not overlook the fact that a significant portion of the national merit award package comes from the OSRHE, not OU.

    I don't see how OU could attact many of the really top students from neighboring states if they did not make them such offers. I imagine that many if not most of these top students can already attend a comparable in-state public school at little or no greater cost (keeping in mind that these student would usually receive at least some scholarships or other aid from those in-state schools and only have to pay in-state tuition there). Then there is the added difficulty of also luring those students away from the much bigger name private schools, which often have huge amounts of money to give in financial aid. OU is already fighting a losing battle in attracting those top out-of-state students who are from families with average or below average incomes, because schools like the 8 Ivy League members as well as MIT, Stanford, etc., already virtually give those students a full ride if they are smart enough to get admitted.

    As for the top Oklahoma high school students, I believe OU and OSU both offer similar financial aid packages which can amount to essentially a full ride. Without such offers, I disagree that OU would get many of those students. As aforementioned, those that are from families that are not particularly well off will already find themselves getting tremendous financial aid offers from the big name private schools which guarantee to meet the financial need for all admitted students (and recently, many of those top schools have even totally eliminated the student loan component for students with family incomes of, e.g., $80,000 or less; those with higher family incomes may have to pay a bit more, but often will still only pay a small fraction of the cost of education unless the families have pretty high incomes or assets). In fact, I read the other day that the average student at Yale only pays something like $12,000 per year toward the total cost to attend including tuition, fees, books, room, board, etc. That is the average, not merely the amount paid by the poorer students! Add that up over 4-5 years, and Yale is not much more expensive to the average out-of-state national merit student than OU currently is, even with the so-called "lavish" scholarship packages! Take away the full-ride for Oklahoma national merits, and the result will be a major brain drain from the state.

    I can tell you from my own personal experience that I turned down OU's full ride offer because I had almost as good a deal from an even more highly regarded Ivy League school, and I wanted to get a chance to see another part of the country. Because of OU's great offer, it was a hard decision, since I was (and still am) a huge OU fan. I knew many other national merits who went to OU because of the attractive scholarship package (they were not as poor as I was, so they would not have gotten quite as good a need-based aid package from the top private schools). For example, I was one of the 100 Oklahoma Academic All-Staters in 1996, and I recall that more than half of them chose OU. That is a great get for OU, but you can bet that far, far fewer of them would have gone to OU if not for the full-ride. They were all smart enough to get into bigger name schools or garner huge scholarships from elsewhere, so if OU had not offered such a sweet deal, most of them would have made a different college choice (and a fair number, like myself, still did not find the scholarship package to be great enough to entice them). For example, while my near full-ride from the Ivy was due to financial need, I also received large scholarship offers from other schools (e.g., a full tuition plus research for work study offer from USC with a guarantee that any additional need would be met with grants/scholarships so that I would have no student loans). So even putting my top choice aside since its aid package was based primarily on need, OU still had to offer a full ride to stay competitive with merit-based awards from other schools.

    This post has been edited 4 times, most recently by SoonerBeau 3 years ago

  • MannaSooner said... (original post)

    Not sure I agree with this. Where do you get this information please?

    Talking to high school kids. Talking to their parents. Why "not sure I agree....". Where do you get your information?

  • SoonerInTN said... (original post)

    Recruiting a smart kid from Oklahoma is one thing. Recruiting a smart kid from Tennessee, Cali, NC, UF, etc is something else entirely. There may not be a shortage of students wanting to attend OU, but without incentives, there will be a huge shortage of bright, diverse students wanting to attend OU.

    What do you mean by "diverse students"? Why should that be a concern? There are plenty of regular kids who are smart. And there are plenty of regular students who are willing to pay tuition. OU should recruit those kids. The "diverse" students can work out their own deal wherever they want to go to school - including at OU.

    OU should strongly emphasize recruiting kids from Oklahoma and Texas and Kansas and Arkansas. OU should avoid getting into bidding wars for "bright, diverse students wanting to attend OU." "Diverse" students are and have been welcome at OU. They should pay tuition - just like any other student.

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    Talking to high school kids. Talking to their parents. Why "not sure I agree....". Where do you get your information?

    Not sure about this post. If I've offended you, I'm sorry.

  • I have lots of contact with students who are good college prospects. OU does not need to and should not offer lavish scholarships to get students. OU should try to be competitive on scholarships. The strongest competition for students comes from OSU, Tech, Arkansas.

    Let the so called super students go to Stanford, Michigan, Vanderbilt. If that's their preference. But OU should avoid a bidding contest. They; don't bring any more value to OU than a good kid from Chickasha, Moore, or Plano or Midland. That's the student who OU should go after.

    OSU did quite well with a kid (Boone Pickens) from Holdenville OK. He was not "diverse" and he did not demand a big scholarship.

  • I have already pointed the many places I disagree with the article and at least a few of the ways I think the author was mistaken or mischaracterized the situation (like ignoring the similarity between OU and OSU's merit finalist packages, not mentioning that the packages for out-of-state students still falls significantly short of a full ride, overlooking that a big portion of the aid package comes from the OSRHE and not OU, trying to pretend that OU and UT are in similar situations when it comes to attracting talented students without the use of large scholarships, etc.). Another big mistake I think the author makes is in arguing that it is the national merit program that is causing OU's tuition hike, as if other schools have not iinstituted similar price increases. The reality is that OU's costs have risen at greater than the overall rate of inflation, but the same is true of virtually all universities, and this has been going on for a really, really long time. In fact, OU is still one of the cheaper in-state schools to attend. Yet another problem is with the way the article portrayed the recent increase in the number of out-of-state national merit students since 2008. Someone reading the article would think OU had a set number of national merit awards to provide and, despite tough economic times, decided to dramatically increase the available awards since 2008. To the contrary, OU does not have a set number of possible awards. OU offers the natinoal merit package to any and all national merit finalists who apply, whatever the number. There have simply been more out-of-state national merit students who have chosen OU in the past few years.

    Despite the countless errors and omissions, I do think the article leads to a couple of good questions, like whether the best way of identifying top students is using the national merit program (not really directly mentioned by the article) and whether OU should consider spreading its award money around a bit more. I have already commented on the latter, so I will not address it here. As for the former, I think most people do not understand how the national merit program works or what it means to be a national merit finalist/scholar. To be eligible for OU's national merit award, a student must first become a finalist in the national merit corporation competition. What is the basis for that distinction? The primary criteria is scoring in the top 1/2 of 1 percent of students in one's state on the PSAT exam. This is a one shot deal. If a student has a bad day and scores a bit too low, there is no second chance. Based on the PSAT score alone, students are identified as national merit semifinalists. The next step is a very slight weeding out of students who have poor grades, get lousy recommendations, or do far less well on the SAT. However, with roughly 90% of all semifinalists becoming finalists, this additional screening process is fairly minor.

    The result of this process is the idenification of students who are generally very smart and often also very good students, though a fair number of underacheiving, good but not great, students also make it through and become finalists. Many other equally talented and sometimes higher acheiving students do not make the cut because they failed to do well on that one test day.

    In my opinion, the national merit program has generally been good for OU, but if it were my call, I would change the requirements for receiving the national merit awards at OU by adding a stipulation that students must have been ranked in the top 10 or 15% of their high school class or had a GPA of 3.8 or better (or otherwise demonstrated they were excellent students and not just smart). Adding such a limitation probably would not greatly reduce the number of OU national merits, though it might knock out a few who, in my view, are not really deserving of such an attractive aid package.

  • SoonerBeau said... (original post)

    Despite the countless errors and omissions, I do think the article leads to a couple of good questions, like whether the best way of identifying top students is using the national merit program (not really directly mentioned by the article) and whether OU should consider spreading its award money around a bit more..

    What are some of the "countless errors and omissions". ?

    Your post indicates general agreement with the article. "OU should consider spreading its award money around a bit more.." That is the author's main point.

    We agree on that. Go Sooners.

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    Let the so called super students go to Stanford, Michigan, Vanderbilt. If that's their preference. But OU should avoid a bidding contest. They; don't bring any more value to OU than a good kid from Chickasha, Moore, or Plano or Midland. That's the student who OU should go after.

    On this point, I have to disagree. I think having top students at OU does bring a lot to the university. Let me point out a few examples from students I know. There was a guy I went to high school with who was a year ahead of me. He chose OU because of the full-ride offer for national merits. He excelled at OU and became a Fulbright Scholar (he may very well have been the only Fulbright Scholar at OU that year). His brother, who was two years younger, was also a national merit finalist and chose OU because of the great scholarship package, and he also excelled, making the OU top 10 freshmen list. The friend from Tennessee who I mentioned before came to OU because of the national merit program, and she was the top math student at OU. She eventually decided to earn an MBA at OU (she even chose it over some really big name MBA programs), and now she lives and works in Oklahoma. In my view, she brought a lot to OU, which she would have never attended if not for the national merit program.

    OU's enhanced reputation and increasingly strong student body are in large part due to the enticing of the super students using big scholarhips. OU could choose not to compete for those students, but it would mean that OU would lose many of its highest acheiving students and likely go back to being viewed as a second or third tier university.

  • Pragmatic said... (original post)

    I have lots of contact with students who are good college prospects. OU does not need to and should not offer lavish scholarships to get students. OU should try to be competitive on scholarships. The strongest competition for students comes from OSU, Tech, Arkansas.

    Let the so called super students go to Stanford, Michigan, Vanderbilt. If that's their preference. But OU should avoid a bidding contest. They; don't bring any more value to OU than a good kid from Chickasha, Moore, or Plano or Midland. That's the student who OU should go after.

    OSU did quite well with a kid (Boone Pickens) from Holdenville OK. He was not "diverse" and he did not demand a big scholarship.

    Obviously, we have a difference of opinion...and that is okay, yet to me your last 4 statements tell all.
    I don't want OU to be like OSU.

  • OK. Just a matter of different opinions. But OU needs to look for real return on investment.

    Maybe that MBA math student will give back some of the generous scholarhip she received. Or....hire a bunch of people.

  • I have already identified many of the errors and omissions. The author implies that OU's offer is lavish but never clarifies that it falls $50,000+ short of a full-ride. I think that is an important omission that would greatly impact readers' perceptions (I even wonder if the author is aware of the large gap between the total cost of education and the out-of-state national merit award). He erroneously implies that this money is coming from OU, when a significant portion comes from the OSRHE. He makes it sound as if OU offers wildly more than any other school, when OSU offers an only slighly less attractive package for national merits. He implies, if he does not outright state, that OU's tuition hikes are being driven by the national merit program, when the reality is that nearly all universities (whether or not they have a national merit program) have had similar price increases. Etc., etc., etc. The article is poorly researched, poorly reasoned, and in my opinion, mischaracterizes the OU national merit program. It looks like an article from someone who knows very little about the intricacies of college financial aid and scholarship competition.

  • MannaSooner said... (original post)

    I don't want OU to be like OSU.

    What - in your opinion - is wrong with OSU? From the standpoint of quality higher education?

  • SoonerBeau said... (original post)

    The article is poorly researched, poorly reasoned, and in my opinion, mischaracterizes the OU national merit program. It looks like an article from someone who knows very little about the intricacies of college financial aid and scholarship competition.

    In your opinion. You have stated that you favor spreading the money out. So....the author and you do agree on a major point. Spread the money out among other deserving students. That's what OU should do. $85,000 is a ridiculous amount of scholarship.

    "knows very little about the intricacies of college financial aid and scholarship competition". Let's strive for transparency. OU is a public, tax supported school.

    " He erroneously implies that this money is coming from OU, when a significant portion comes from the OSRHE.". What is that? Is it tax payer funded?

    This post was edited by Pragmatic 3 years ago

  • Again, I disagree entirely that $85,000 for 5 years is a ridiculous amount of scholarship money. Having gone through the process myself (and again for law school), I received equal or greater offers from many schools. Keep in mind that $22,000 of the $85,000 is not from OU and that the biggest bulk of what is left is just a waiver of the out-of-state portion of the tuition (which I understand is very common for public schools to do for top out of state students), and OU is only really offering a relatively small amount in scholarships ($5,000 for the national merit award, $2,000 per year to cover a portion of the in-state tuition, $1,500 for a one-time laptop allowance, and $1,500 for a one-time travel stipend to a partner university that many students probably do not take advantage of). The out-of-state national merit student still pays something like $12,000+ per year toward the cost of education, which is not much less than what an in-state student with a moderate scholarship pays and is probably more than many of these top students would have to pay to attend many other universitites, including even the big name, high price tag, but generous private schools.

    The bottom line is that having taken the time to do a little research to update my knowledge on the OU national merit program, I find the scholarship packages for out-of-state students to be far from lavish. In fact, I'm not sure that OU does not need to offer even more if it really wants to attract the top students, because most of them will be able to go somewhere else for far less than $12,000+ per year. For in-state students, the award package is closer to, but still less than, a full-ride, and I think that is appropriate for top in-state students (though as already mentioned, in identifying those students, I would add an additional limitation that students have excellent high school grades).

    I do wish OU could offer a bit more to excellent students who fall just short of the national merit and OSRHE cutoff, but since much of that funding is from OSRHE, and OU cannot dictate how that money is awarded, that is an issue that is largely out of OU's hands.

    This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by SoonerBeau 3 years ago