6 Reasons Private Colleges Are Awarding More Scholarships

Colleges give out early merit grants to prevent tuition sticker shock.

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4. To reduce "sticker shock" by giving students and parents an early idea of what their true out-of-pocket expenses will be. Albion College in Michigan, which advertised a total cost of attendance of more than $40,000 in 2010, often awards merit scholarships as soon as applicants are accepted. That can be months before the FAFSA deadlines, which are typically in February or March. Albion President Donna Randall says the school wants to alert students and parents as early as possible if they won't have to pay the full price. Albion awards merit grants to nearly 90 percent of its 1,700 undergraduates, about a third of those recipients are judged to have enough family income or other scholarships to pay for college.

[Watch how to "Beat the FAFSA."]

 5. To make up for some out-of-touch rules that consider many middle class families not "needy." Rhodes College in Memphis, for example, reports giving scholarships to about 35 percent of its admitted students who don't qualify as needy. Bob Johnson, vice president for student and information services, says his school realizes a student from a New York family earning, say, $150,000, might not technically qualify as "needy," but pays so much more in rent and transportation costs than families living in lower-cost cities such as Memphis that they need financial aid to pay Rhodes's total cost of attendance of about $46,000.

[Get the details on the federal need formula.]

6. To meet expectations of rewards from the current generation of teenagers, many of whom grew up receiving trophies simply for showing up for soccer games or karate class. "This is a generation that expects to be recognized," says Stensrud. He says he often gets calls asking for merit scholarships from C-plus students. He tells them: "You were accepted on probation and you really thought you were going to get a scholarship?"

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