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Scholarship: a new synonym for discount

November 25th, 2009

Several months ago, a letter arrived from a local seafood restaurant, offering $25 toward our next meal there. Weeks later, an invitation to a gathering at a well-known traditional women’s clothing store arrived, promising 20 percent off any purchase made at that event. Just a few days ago at a professional meeting in North Carolina, the parallel practices of the world of higher education, where discounting carries alternate names, hit home for me: merit scholarships, honorary scholarships and need-based financial aid are in expansion mode.

Tuition discounting is not a new concept: need-based financial assistance has cut the sticker price of college for millions of students. A small number of colleges, including Kentucky’s own Berea College, specialize in educating students from low-income backgrounds and enabling them to graduate without debt. Some prominent colleges with sizable endowments and applicant pools have followed this example in recent years, replacing the loan component of their financial aid packages with outright grant funding, drawing more candidates than ever before.

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