The number of National Merit scholars on the Kansas University campus is on the rise again.
KU enrolled 57 of the highly sought-after freshmen this year, up from 49 in the 2003-2004 school year. That followed a year in 2002-2003 when the number of National Merit scholars was cut in half because of the elimination of full-ride scholarship packages to the students.
"We haven't done anything different" since last year, said Gail Sherron, associate director of admissions and scholarships. "We've continued our aggressive recruitment of high-achieving students."
National Merit scholars are selected based on test scores, academic record and extracurricular activities. University rankings such as the ones done by U.S. News and World Report take the number of scholars into account.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway made attracting National Merit scholars a goal when he came to campus in 1995, and he gave them scholarships to cover 15 hours of credit and board in a scholarship hall. KU cracked the top 10 for public universities enrolling the scholars for three consecutive years, topping off at 116 scholars in 2000.
But officials decided the scholarships were too costly and in 2003 announced they would stop offering full rides to nonresident National Merit scholars and instead focus on attracting top Kansas students.
Now, National Merit scholars from Kansas receive full-ride scholarship packages but nonresident students receive packages worth about $10,000 a year, or $4,000 less than in previous years.
The change resulted in a dramatic drop -- from 99 to 49 -- in the number of National Merit freshmen between fall 2002 and fall 2003. The drop was especially large among out-of-state scholars, with only four enrolling in the 2003-2004 year after enrolling 45 the previous year.
This year, there are 11 out-of-state scholars attending KU.