At Centre, all College-sponsored gift aid, whether merit scholarships, special scholarships, or college grants, comes from the same “pot”. The pot is big – over $15 milllion dollars this year – but finite, meaning we must make choices about how we use it. These choices, which are often very difficult, are guided by two primary goals, each of which is subject to many corresponding pressures.
To recognize student accomplishment broadly across a talented applicant pool and to give bright, talented students incentive to choose Centre. We generally define “merit” holistically; we consider a range of factors; and we spread opportunity more widely and shallowly than narrowly and deeply. Our decisions are driven by institutional values, are shaped relative to competition rather than formula, and are limited by the resources we have available. Our applicant pool has increased by 50% in the last ten years; our number of scholarships has not. The average ACT for admitted students has increased by more than a point and a half. Applications are more geographically widespread than ever before, and the pool of students we consider is more diverse than ever before. In any case, the scholarship you receive or don’t receive from Centre is not a judgment on your worth as a person; that judgment is not ours to make. Nor is it a guarantee of success or failure as a student at Centre. It is more likely a reflection of the structure of our scholarship program, the pool of candidates, and the variety of talents we wish to recognize.
To enroll a student body that is evenly balanced across the socio-economic spectrum. Centre has a long-standing commitment to provide opportunity for talented students regardless of ability to pay. Funding grants to students with financial need remains the first and largest priority for Centre aid dollars. However, the traditional model for need-based financial aid is under increasing stress. Woefully underfunded state and federal financial aid programs have not kept pace with increases in the cost of education, leaving colleges to struggle to fill that ever-growing gap for the families with the greatest financial need. Federal definitions of financial need exclude too many middle-class families, who have some resources to pay for college but not nearly enough to absorb the full cost of private higher education. We don’t wish to be a college of the richest and poorest. We must have a system beyond federal methodology to fairly and effectively help middle class families, while still aiding students with the highest financial need.
Other institutions, of course, will be grappling with their own sets of priorities and limitations, and they will find their own, different solutions. That’s one of the reasons why your scholarship and aid awards may look quite different from school to school. As you settle down to compare your options, consider what’s valuable, not simply what’s cheapest; what’s possible for your family, not just what’s easiest; and what you will actually pay, not what amount of aid has been offered. We believe strongly in the value of a Centre education, belief reinforced by third-party ratings of value such as Forbes, Consumers Digest, Kiplingers, and US News. We hope strongly that our aid awards will make it possible for families who recognize our value to choose Centre.
It’s also important to be in touch with us. If you don’t understand your financial aid award, please ask. If Centre is your first choice but will be difficult to afford, we want to know. We may not always have the solution you would wish, but we very much want the chance to have a conversation.