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Keeping up with the Joneses: Institutional changes following the adoption of a merit aid policy


  • Griffith, Amanda L.


The increasing use by private colleges and universities of financial aid based on "merit", as opposed to based solely on financial need has caused many to raise concerns that this type of aid will go mainly to higher income students crowding out aid to lower income students. However, some analysts suggest that by attracting more "almost full-paying" students through the use of merit aid, institutions will have more financial resources that they can use to increase their financial aid to low-income students and thus their enrollment. Results using data from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges and other secondary data sources suggest that the increased use of merit aid is associated with a decrease in enrollment of low-income and minority students, particularly at more selective institutions. Middle and bottom tier colleges may be offsetting costs with tuition increases, as the introduction of merit aid is accompanied by an increase in net costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Griffith, Amanda L., 2011. "Keeping up with the Joneses: Institutional changes following the adoption of a merit aid policy," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1022-1033, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:30:y:2011:i:5:p:1022-1033

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Liang Zhang, 2005. "Do Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Matter?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
    2. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Daniel R. Sherman, 1984. "Optimal Financial Aid Policies for a Selective University," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(2), pages 202-230.
    3. Monks, James, 2009. "The impact of merit-based financial aid on college enrollment: A field experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 99-106, February.
    4. Gordon C. Winston, 1999. "Subsidies, Hierarchy and Peers: The Awkward Economics of Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 13-36, Winter.
    5. Rothschild, Michael & White, Lawrence J, 1995. "The Analytics of the Pricing of Higher Education and Other Services in Which the Customers Are Inputs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 573-586, June.
    6. Singell, Larry D, Jr & Stone, Joe A, 2002. "The Good, the Poor and the Wealthy: Who Responds Most to College Financial Aid?," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(4), pages 393-407, October.
    7. Albert Yung-Hsu Liu & Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Jesenka Mrdjenovic, 2007. "Diffusion of Common Application Membership and Admissions Outcomes at American Colleges and Universities," NBER Working Papers 13175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Liang Zhang & Jared Levin, 2005. "Crafting A Class: The Trade Off Between Merit Scholarships and Enrolling Lower-Income Students," NBER Working Papers 11437, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Baum, Sandra R. & Schwartz, Saul, 1988. "Merit aid to college students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 127-134, February.
    10. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, 2006. "Admission, Tuition, and Financial Aid Policies in the Market for Higher Education," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 885-928, July.
    11. Bridget Terry Long, 2004. "How do Financial Aid Policies Affect Colleges?: The Institutional Impact of the Georgia HOPE Scholarship," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
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    Cited by:

    1. Ozan Jaquette & Edna Parra, 2016. "The Problem with the Delta Cost Project Database," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 57(5), pages 630-651, August.


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