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Should only top students get financial aid?

The latest topic for my Admissions 101 discussion group is a new book by Rutgers emeritus professor Jackson Toby, "The Lowering of Higher Education." He argues that high schools and colleges will be far more likely to have engaged and motivated students if we change the college financial aid system from recognizing financial need to recognizing academic merit. In other words, you couldn't get financial aid when you applied to college unless you had good grades and standardized test scores. It is a radical idea, but thought provoking. Join our often raucous group of regular participants to thrash this out.

By Jay Mathews  | March 30, 2010; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Admissions 101 discussion, Jackson Toby book, give financial aid only to top students  
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Mr. Mathews, the only reason I read your articles is to clearly understand what the "reformists" are up to. There's something called SAT/ACT currently being used to "assess" preparedness for college-level work. So now the folks who have financial means to PAY for college don't have to, to the direct detriment of lower class kids. You continue to amaze...

Posted by: isupreme | March 30, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The posters on your discussion group point out the problems with moving from need to merit for financial aid. I would add that the problem Jackson Toby points out is a real one, but moving to merit-based aid is the wrong tool for addressing it. Plenty of the students on campuses who are unmotivated are not there because they recieved financial aid. They're there because our society is selling the idea that you're a loser if you don't have a 4-year degree, so they go off to college on their parents' dime (or yours and mine if they've taken out big loans)just so they can have the credential.

Posted by: jane100000 | March 30, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

As a kinesthetic learner in the 1960s I failed algebra three times. There was no one in my family to guide me on 'how' to get into college. I didn't exactly look like a 'great investment for financial assistance.' I didn't understand my peers were taking SAT prep courses. My route to higher education was through the California community college system with Pell Grants and student loans. I got my BA in History from the California State University System, my MA in Accounting at GWU, my MA.E from Trinity University and am currently a doctoral student in Education at GWU. My passion as a teacher for DCPS is making sure students like myself do not fall through the cracks. In a competitive global economy we really can no longer afford the luxury of an educational system privileged by race and social class. We waste too much talent in this country. No one sets out in life to be a homeless high school drop out with a criminal record. Students do not drop out suddenly, they slowly fade from our sight.

Posted by: mrpozzi | March 31, 2010 4:20 AM | Report abuse

i say no for the simple fact that students with bad grades might want to change there life's around, And if you don't offer finical aid how will they? Also you cant really say finical aid means college is free becuase when they graduate and get there jobs the Gov't will catch up with them and start to take there money out of there checks

Posted by: doubletapking | April 1, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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