Duke is one of only two top-ten universities to offer merit aid

by Grace

Duke is one of only two top-ten universities to offer merit scholarships.

… Though some critics of merit aid programs say the scholarships can take resources away from students who need financial help most, University administrators say this is not the case for Duke. The University maintains eight merit scholarship programs while also growing the amount that is given to students with financial need, according to Melissa Maouf, director of the Office of Undergraduate Scholars & Fellows.

“Our merit communities are a mixed bag, economically all over the place,” Malouf, wrote in an email Wednesday. “All students to apply to Duke may be considered for a merit scholarship—rich or poor or in between.

Only three Duke scholarships are solely merit-based.

Three of the eight scholarship programs Duke offers—the Angier B. Duke Scholarship, the Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship and the Robertson Scholarship—solely take merit into account. The remaining five scholarship programs consider a mixture of merit and need.

Nearly 4% of Duke students receive merit aid.

In 2013, Duke provided merit scholarships averaging about $56,000 per year to 314 students, nearly 4 percent of the undergraduate body, according to the 2013-14 CDS survey.

Only one other top-ten school, the University of Chicago, also offers merit awards.  All the other schools only give need-based financial aid.


Jenna Zhang, “Duke stands alone among peers in merit-based scholarship priorities”, The Chronicle, January 20, 2015.


10 Comments to “Duke is one of only two top-ten universities to offer merit aid”

  1. The only reason a school gives out merit aid is to raise its academic profile. The top ten schools have no need to do this. On the other hand, they are under pressure to diversify, so need based aid makes more sense for them.


  2. So why would they give any merit aid at all? I suspect some of their endowment funds carry requirements for merit aid, and the schools realize that it does make it more likely that UMC students will be able to attend while at the same time it improves their overall statistics.


  3. Well, you said that 8 of the top ten are not giving out merit aid. Only 2 are doing that. Why? Maybe as you point out, they have a fund with strings attached. Maybe just habit? U of Chicago was focused on raising its academic profile for a long time, and even though they have now “arrived”, they may have simply not realized that merit aid is no longer necessary.
    The schools that are most likely to give out lots of merit aid are the ones that really want to raise their profile.


  4. One also has to be careful about definitions of “merit aid”. Most of the funding called merit aid is actually athletic scholarships, not based on academic performance.


  5. GSwoP beat me to it; I was going to ask whether this meant Stanford is not a top-ten university. To be as competitive as they are in the 12-Pac requires them to give out a lot of merit aid, albeit merit aid based on athletic, rather than academic, merit.


  6. Duke separates out merit from athletic aid numbers. Here are the actual percentages from 2012-13 year.

    % of Total Aid Recipients
    Need-based Aid Recipients 85.6%
    Athletic Aid Recipients 8.1%
    Merit Aid Recipients 6.6%


    Stanford gives no academic merit aid.


  7. Grace, those figures are number of recipients. I suspect that if you look at dollar amounts, the athletic aid is a much bigger percentage, and the merit aid much smaller. Most academic merit aid is tiny token amounts (in general, I don’t know about Duke in particular).


  8. You are correct, gasstation, based on the latest figures (2010) I’ve seen. However, given that the average academic award was over $21k, Duke is a notable exception in that regard and worthy of consideration for students who are unlikely to qualify for need-based aid.

    Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $21,158
    Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $38,398



  9. If the average athletic scholarship is $38,398 and 8.1% get them, then $3110/student is spent on athletic scholarships.
    If $21,158 is the average non-need-based award, and 14.7% get them, then $3110/student is spent on non-need-based awards—so all of it is athletic, none academic based. I think that this is unlikely, so I hope you mis-wrote who the average is for.
    If $21,158 is the average academic-based award, and 6.6% get them, then $1393/student is spent on academic awards, about 45% of what is spent on athletic awards.


  10. In the description above, non-need-based is the same as academic-based award, if that makes more sense.


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