Posts tagged ‘Duke University’

July 15, 2015

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.


September 3, 2013

Financial aid for high-income families at Duke University

by Grace

Duke University’s financial aid statistics show that even “rich” families are eligible to receive help in paying for college.


Since the numbers for each income group are not provided, we don’t know how many families are in the top categories.  Based on information from other sources, a reasonable estimate would be that 400-800 families whose incomes are $130,000 or more are receiving financial aid averaging about $20,000 per year.  These figures comprise need-based and merit-based financial aid, including athletic scholarships.  That’s about 6-12% of total Duke undergraduates.



Total Enrolled Undergrads:

Total Aid Recipients: 3,469

% of Total Aid Recipients
Merit Aid Students: 6.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 7.3%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 86.6%

% of Total Enrolled Undergrads
Merit Aid Students: 3.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 3.7%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 44.1%

Duke is one of only two of the top ten universities that give out merit scholarships.   Although not very common, in some cases it is possible to qualify for need-based aid even with an income approaching $250,000.

How Duke Does Aid is a short, informative video on how financial aid works at Duke.

Related:  Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based (Cost of College)

June 5, 2013

Quick Links – Private schools in decline; ‘A stands for average’; give college kids the old towels

by Grace

While “run-of-the-mill private schools and colleges” are dying out, elite institutions are still going strong.

Private education as we have known it is on its way out, at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels. At the very least, it’s headed for dramatic shrinkage, save for a handful of places and circumstances, to be replaced by a very different set of institutional, governance, financing, and education-delivery mechanisms.

Consider today’s realities. Private K-12 enrollments are shrinking — by almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2010. Catholic schools are closing right and left…. Traditional nonprofit private colleges are also challenged to fill their classroom seats and dorms, to which they’re responding by heavily discounting their tuitions and fees for more and more students.

Meanwhile, charter school enrollments are booming across the land. The charter share of the primary-secondary population is five percent nationally and north of twenty percent in 25 major cities. “Massive open online courses” (MOOCs) are booming, too, and online degree and certificate options proliferating. Public-sector college and university enrollments remain strong and now educate three students out of four….

What’s really happening here are big structural changes across the industry as the traditional model of private education — at both levels — becomes unaffordable, unnecessary, or both, and as more viable options for students and families present themselves….

Top-tier private schools are flourishing.

…  elite private institutions are doing just fine, many besieged by more applicants than ever before. The wealthiest Americans can easily afford them and are ever more determined to secure for their children the advantages that come with attending them. And at the K-12 level, a disproportionate fraction of those wealthy people live in major cities where the public school options are unappealing. So we’re not going to see an enrollment crisis anytime soon at Brown, Amherst, or Duke, nor at Andover, Sidwell Friends, or Trinity….


College grade inflation – ‘A stands for average’

…  In the last half-century, all but a few of American colleges and universities have, in effect, abandoned grading. Consider the history of grading at the University of Minnesota, which is one of the better state universities. As one observer puts it, “In 1960, the average undergraduate grade awarded in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota was 2.27 on a four-point scale.,” and now 53% of the grades given are  A’s.

In other words, the average letter grade at the University of Minnesota in the early 1960s was about a C+, and that was consistent with average grades at other colleges and universities in that era.  In fact, that average grade of C+ (2.30-2.35 on a 4-point scale) had been pretty stable at America’s colleges going all the way back to the 1920s (see chart above from, a website maintained by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who has tirelessly crusaded for several decades against “grade inflation” at U.S. universities).

By 2006, the average GPA at public universities in the U.S. had risen to 3.01 and at private universities to 3.30.  That means that the average GPA at public universities in 2006 was equivalent to a letter grade of B, and at private universities a B+, and it’s likely that grades and GPAs have continued to inflate over the last six years.

Since 1998, as Mark J. Perry points out, the average grade given in most classes taught at American colleges and universities has come to be an A. Witness the headline in the Twin Cities Star Tribune: “At U, concern grows that ‘A’ stands for average.”


Send the old towels to college with your kid.


It only took me three years to realize this, but I should buy new towels for myself and send the old towels to college with my kid.

My kids usually trash their bath towels within a few months after getting them.  I don’t know how or why, but their new towels quickly develop mysterious stains, pulled threads, and frayed edges.  Meanwhile, the towels I use stay pristine and fluffy for years.

So I will no longer buy new towels for my kids to use at college or at home.  I will simply hand over my gently used ones to them.  Then, at the end of the school year my college kid can throw away his old towels, saving him from having to haul them back home.  Problem solved.  I finally learned.

August 2, 2012

Better financial payoff for women who become PAs instead doctors

by Grace

The average female primary-care physician would have been financially better off becoming a physician assistant.

When a net-present-value (NPV) calculation was applied to cases where women chose to become physician assistants (PA) and compared to those who chose to become primary-care doctors, the average economic outcome was found to be superior for those who chose the PA career path.  The upfront costs, deferred earnings during training, hourly earnings, and lower PA salaries are all factors in this equation.  One factor that appears to make the biggest difference in outcomes for women is the lower number of hours they work compared to men.

… Male doctor earns more per hour relative to the male PA than the female doctor earns relative to the female PA. However, a big part of the difference comes from an hours gap. The vast majority of male doctors under the age of 55 work substantially more than the standard 40 hour work week. In contrast, most female doctors work between 2 to 10 hours fewer than this per week.

Even though both male and female doctors both earn higher wages than their PA counterparts, most female doctors don’t work enough hours at those wages to financially justify the costs of becoming a doctor.

The medical profession is one that lends itself to women (or men) scaling down to part-time schedule, an option preferred by most working mothers.  So it is should not be surprising that women doctors rarely drop out of the work force.

… there is evidence that women doctors actually “drop out” less frequently than women lawyers and (especially) women MBAs. For example, a 2010 study by Herr and Wolfram find that in a sample of Harvard graduates, 94 percent of mothers with MDs remain working in their late 30s, compared to only 79 percent of JDs and 72 percent of MBAs. One of the attractive features of primary care medicine is the possibility to scale up or scale down the workload — flexibility often not feasible for an executive or investment banker. If one scales down enough, though, the upfront investment of becoming a doctor isn’t recouped.

The fact that most female doctors work “between 2 to 10 hours fewer” than a standard 40-hour work week in contrast to male doctors who work substantially more hours helps explain why many female doctors I’ve encountered tend to keep shorter office hours and are less available after hours.

… in 1976 women constituted only 24 percent of first year medical students. By 2006, that number which doubled to 48 percent.

The rising trend in female doctors who will continue to work fewer hours may exacerbate the shortage of doctors, which is expected to worsen as the result of demographic changes and the implementation of Obamacare.

Considering these trends, what are some possible future scenarios?

  1. Women doctors will begin to work longer hours as more fathers take on the role of primary child care.
  2. Fewer women will choose medical school and instead opt for the PA career route.
  3. More of our medical care will be handled by PAs instead of doctors.
  4. All of the above

Some background on the PA profession

… Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who diagnose and treat illness under the supervision of a physician and who may, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, write prescriptions. The first PA program started in 1965 at Duke University, and was initially designed to provide civilian medical training to field medics returning from Vietnam.

Interestingly, while the PA field started out all male, the majority of graduates today are female. The PA training program is generally 2 years, shorter than that for doctors. Unsurprisingly, subsequent hourly earnings of PAs are lower than subsequent hourly earnings of doctors.

The 2010 median pay for PAs was $86,410 per year.  It might not be a bad career choice for either men or women.

February 21, 2012

Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based

by Grace

Be wary of merit scholarships that take financial need into account.

THE DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOLARS award is listed as a merit scholarship, but it is actually based on financial need.

In one section of their website, it is described as completely merit-based.

Merit Scholarships
Duke University also offers a limited number of merit scholarships. All applicants for admission are automatically considered for any available merit scholarship; specific applications are not required, and are not available. Our merit scholarship programs do not require that the winner demonstrate need; merit scholarships are based on the student’s academic and personal profile.

But if you read further on the University Scholars website, you see a contradiction.

As University Scholars are selected in part on the basis of financial need, it is imperative to file any required financial aid forms as early as possible, preferably by mid-February.

THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS take financial need into account in a more subtle way.

From the University of Rochester website:

Merit-based scholarships … are awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and potential, regardless of financial circumstances.

We distribute merit-based aid regardless of a family’s demonstrated financial need.

However, in candid blog post Jonathan Burdick, Rochester Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, wrote about the curious correlation between lower income and increased merit award amount.

We had a “progressive tax” in our merit. On average, each four dollars less in family income increased merit awards one cent. Not much impact per student, but noticeable overall.

Hmm, the lower your income the more merit money you receive.  In defending the correlation, Burdick explains that financial need is incorporated in a camouflaged way.

… needier students were on average more likely to have earned larger merit awards from the committee review process. I expect this result reflects the sympathy most reviewers might have for students whose essays and letters of recommendation describe tougher life circumstances. You don’t have to see a tax return to admire someone who has both achieved in school and comes from a single-parent home, or will be the first in the family to attend college, etc.

This was exactly my thinking, that the reviewers sometimes give extra “points” to students from families with lower incomes, euphemistically described as tougher life circumstances. Parents must decipher this information on their own, since colleges may claim that financial circumstances are not a factor in deciding merit awards.

Be forewarned.  Sometimes even when colleges insist that a scholarship is awarded solely on merit, family income does matter.

Related articles:

February 1, 2012

Only two of the top ten universities give out merit scholarships

by Grace

While all the top ten ranked universities offer generous need-based financial aid, only two – University of Chicago and Duke – award merit scholarships.

First, here are the top ten universities as ranked by US News & World Report.

#1         Harvard University
#1         Princeton University
#3         Yale University
#4         Columbia University
#5         California Institute of Technology
#5         Massachusetts Institute of Technology
#5         Stanford University
#5         University of Chicago
#5         University of Pennsylvania
#10       Duke University

Chicago offers less aid to more students

Chicago awards merit aid to about 10% of its freshman, averaging about $8,000 per recipient.  Here is the description from their website:

Merit awards are determined by the Office of College Admissions regardless of financial need and are guaranteed for four years of undergraduate study. They include the following:

  • University Scholarship: Partial scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, renewable for four years
  • Chicago Public Schools Scholarship: A full-tuition scholarship to selected students who have graduated from a Chicago Public Schools high school
  • Police and Fire Scholarship: A full-tuition scholarship to selected students who are sons or daughters of active-duty Chicago police officers or firefighters
  • The University also honors National Merit Finalists with a renewable award of $1,000 to $2,000.

Duke offers more aid to fewer students

Duke gives merit aid to about 3% of its freshman, averaging about $25,000 per recipient according to US News reporting.  This excludes their athletic scholarships.  More information is available at their website, but you have to wade through the details to learn that some of these “merit” scholarships actually have a need component.  (I’ll write about this messy detail in a future post.)

Scholarship information for both schools from USNWR, based on 2010 data

University of Chicago Non-need-based Scholarships/Grants  
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $7,772
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $0
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $12,854
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $0
Duke Non-need-based Scholarships/Grants  
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $24,985
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $39,470
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $21,158
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $38,398
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