Views from Kansas: Don’t cut merit-based aid

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

More bad enrollment news from K-State: They’re killing off the Putnam Scholarship.

The university announced last week that it was eliminating the Putnam, a major source of merit-based scholarship aid. The scholarship awards up to $9,000 per year to students who score a 32 or above on the ACT and have a grade-point average of at least 3.85.

There are 301 current recipients, amounting to $2.7 million in scholarship aid. They’ll get to keep those scholarships, but there won’t be any more recipients.

The university said it’s shifting toward more need-based aid, helping families that have more trouble paying tuition.

Boosting need-based aid is good. Rising tuition costs — which are an outgrowth of the decline of public funding of higher education — will inevitably drive more potential students away. Keep in mind, as we’ve been saying here a lot lately, that Manhattan is a college town, and that if kids stop coming here to college, we have a major problem.

Enrollment fell another 500-some this fall, meaning it’s down more than 10 percent in four years. Major problem.

So, yes, bump up need-based aid. But don’t cut merit-based aid. We want the best students here. We want to compete with other universities, who go after these students hard with scholarship offers. A kid here on merit-based aid is just as good (at least) as a kid here on need-based aid.

Why cut the merit-based aid? Well, obviously there’s not enough money to do both. That’s the essential problem.

We can’t really fault the university for doing what it thinks is best. Everybody up on campus knows the importance of enrollment, and scholarships help drive enrollment. They’re just making the best choices they can under the circumstances.

The answer, of course, is more money. That money has to come either from taxpayers or from donors. The fundraisers at the KSU Foundation will keep shaking all the trees they can to get support for the scholarships necessary. We encourage any donors to step up now.

Will that be enough? Probably not. It’s going to take some public effort to get this turned around.

At the moment, it appears to be headed in the wrong direction.

— Originally published in The Manhattan Mercury

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