The six University of California campuses that currently provide funding for National Merit Scholarships will redirect that funding to other merit-based scholarships beginning with the fall 2006 entering class, university officials announced today (July 13).
The decision only affects National Merit Scholarships funded directly by the university; scholarships funded by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. or by corporate sponsors will not be affected. In addition, the change will only apply prospectively, meaning that UC will continue to honor all National Merit Scholarships awarded to date, including those awarded to students entering the University of California in fall 2005.
In 2004-05, approximately 600 of UC's 158,000 undergraduates received National Merit Scholarships funded by the university, totaling approximately $735,000.
The decision was reached collectively by the chancellors of the UC campuses following a recommendation by the Academic Council, the executive body of the UC faculty. The chancellors determined that the university should continue to reward and recognize academic merit, but that the specific definition of merit employed by the National Merit Scholarship Program is inconsistent with UC's undergraduate admissions policies.
In particular, the chancellors agreed with the Academic Council's concern that using the PSAT exam alone to eliminate the vast majority of test takers from National Merit Scholarship consideration is inconsistent with the principles that standardized tests should be used in conjunction with other factors in measuring merit and that major decisions should not be made on the basis of small differences in test scores. In undergraduate admissions, UC uses a broad mix of indicators, including but not limited to test scores, to assess student achievement.
As a result, the six campuses currently doing so will no longer use university resources to fund National Merit Scholarships, effective with the fall 2006 entering class, and instead will shift those resources to fund other merit-based scholarships, such as the UC Regents Scholarship Program and the campus-based Chancellor's Scholarship Programs.
The affected campuses are UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. UC Berkeley, UC Merced and UC Riverside do not sponsor National Merit Scholarships.
"We honor and respect academic achievement, and we are very proud that many National Merit Scholars apply to the University of California and are successful here," said M.R.C. Greenwood, UC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "This decision of the chancellors is not meant to diminish those students or their accomplishments in any way. This is an issue of ensuring that when the university uses its own resources to fund merit-based scholarships, it does so in a manner that is consistent with our own policies and principles with respect to undergraduate admissions."
None of UC's public comparison institutions (University of Virginia, University of Michigan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, State University of New York at Buffalo) or private comparison institutions (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale) currently sponsors National Merit Scholarships.
Students who are National Merit Scholars will still be able to compete for approximately $62 million in UC scholarships currently awarded to 16,700 UC undergraduates.
In 2003-04, UC awarded a total of $11 million in Regents Scholarships to more than 2,100 students. In addition, 870 students received ChancellorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Scholarships in excess of $5.8 million. Recipients of these scholarships are selected based on merit, while the amount of funding they receive is based on financial need. In 2003-04, UC also awarded $187.5 million in grants based solely on financial need.
The issue of UC's sponsorship of National Merit Scholarships was first addressed by the UC Academic Senate's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, which expressed concerns about the incongruity between the National Merit Scholarship Program's definition of merit and the University of California's definition; about the lack of a study validating use of the PSAT for selecting meritorious students; and about the program appearing to have an educationally unwarranted negative impact on disadvantaged and underrepresented students.
The Academic Council's resolution on the issue is available at:
and a background paper is at:
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