Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding

Editor’s note: This list was completely updated August 13, 2016, to include data for 2015 compared to 2014.  Below we compare awards, by university, for both years so that readers can gauge any trends in university support for the scholarships. Please see separate post Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Sponsorship–Part Two for additional information about all types of merit aid.

Nowadays, winners of merit scholarships whose families fall into that broad range of being moderately well off but not comfortably well to do need to know which universities still place a premium on National Merit Scholars. The universities that continue to recruit NM scholars typically do so because (1) they want to compete with the Ivies for the best students and/or (2) they want to raise the profile of their undergrads so that national rankings will show a higher degree of selectivity.

Most of the highly-ranked private universities that continue their relationship with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation fall into category (1) above. Foremost among these in 2015 are the University of Chicago with 294 merit scholars (207 of them with university sponsorship); USC with 226 merit scholars (181 with USC support); Northwestern with 206 scholars (146 with school support); and Vanderbilt with 206 scholars (138 with university support).

It is noteworthy that all of the above private elites have reduced the total number of NMS scholarships and the number of scholars receiving university sponsorship. Indeed, Washington University in St. Louis had 212 merit scholars in 2014, 159 with university sponsorship. In 2015, this number fell to 32 scholarships, none with university sponsorship. This is also a trend for most, but not all, public universities listed below. One can sense a university’s receptiveness and willingness to buck the trend against awarding merit scholarships by view the year over year list below.

A longer list of public universities appears below.

The excellent private universities still awarding merit aid are willing to take the heat for sponsoring non- need-based students based on merit alone at a time when the inequities of scholarship funding have led to a greater emphasis on allocating funds mostly or entirely on a need-based scale.

Again, for many families, that trend is a good one; but for families with incomes in the mid six figures, for example, the ability to qualify for need-based aid may be negligible while the pinch on the family budget is still significant.

Many public elites have joined the Ivies in not providing their own funds to match or pay entirely for merit scholarships.  Among these schools are all the UC campuses, Virginia, Michigan, UT Austin, Washington, and more recently North Carolina, Ohio State, Illinois, and Georgia Tech.  At these universities, merit scholars may still receive non-need-based assistance, but it will not be in the form of university-sponsored merit funds. For example, Michigan These and other universities may also have some scholarships for valedictorians and other highly qualified scholars.

The University of Wisconsin only funds four merit scholars a year, and these must be need-based.

Below is a list of public universities that still match or fund National Merit Scholars, regardless of need, and that had 25 or more merit scholars in 2014. We will list the university, followed by the total number of merit scholars in the 2014 report, followed again by the number of those scholars that also received school support based on the merit scholarship. Then we do the same for merit scholars in the same universities in 2015.

As a general rule, the higher the number of school-supported merit scholars, the greater the recruitment is for merit scholars.

Alabama (2014): 135 total, 118 with university sponsorship; 2015: 148 total, 120 with university sponsorship.

Oklahoma (2014): 313 total, 267 with university sponsorship, 2015; 2015: 288 total, 240 with university sponsorship.

Minnesota (2014): 140 total, 116 with university sponsorship; 2015: 147 total, 115 with university sponsorship.

North Carolina (2014): 34 total, none with university sponsorship; 2015: 20 total, none with university sponsorship.

Texas A&M (2014): 162 total, and 137 with university sponsorship; 2015: 142 total, 120 with university sponsorship.

Georgia Tech (2014): 49 total, none with university sponsorship; 2015: 59 total, none with university sponsorship.

Arizona State (2014): 116 total, and 98 with university sponsorship; 2015: 112 total, 94 with university sponsorship.

UC Berkeley (2014): 112 total, none with university sponsorship; 129 total, none with university sponsorship.

Arizona (2014): 68 total, 55 with university sponsorship; 2015: 65 total, 57 with university sponsorship.

Kentucky (2014: 108 total, 89 with university sponsorship; 2015: 111 total, 93 with university sponsorship.

Kansas (2014): 28 merit scholars, 22 with school sponsorship; 2015: 26 total, 20 with university sponsorship

Central Florida (2014): 77 total, 72 with university sponsorship; 2015: 69 total, 59 with university sponsorship.

Illinois (2014): 32 total, none with university sponsorship; 2015: 26 total, none with university sponsorship.

UT Dallas (2014): 104 total, 79 with university sponsorship; 2015: 101 total, 78 with university sponsorship.

Auburn (2014): 70 total, 69 with university sponsorship; 2015: 64 total, 51 with university sponsorship.

Maryland (2014): 60 total, 38 with university sponsorship; 2015: 61 total, 48 with university sponsorship.

Minnesota (2014): 140 total, 116 with university sponsorship; 2015: 147 total, 115 with university sponsorship.

Indiana (2014): 66 total, 54 with university sponsorship; 2015: 68 total, 50 with university sponsorship.

UT Austin (2014): 65 total, none with university sponsorship; 2015: 60 total, none with university sponsorship.

Georgia (2014): 38 total, 28 with university sponsorship; 2015: 42 total, 28 with university sponsorship.

Michigan (2014): 60 total, none with university sponsorship; 2015: 56, none with university sponsorship.

Nebraska (2014): 31 total, 28 with university sponsorship; 2015: 47 total, 41 with university sponsorship.

Clemson (2014): 41 total, 36 with university sponsorship; 2015: 55 total, 41 with university sponsorship.

South Carolina (2014): 49 total, 42 with university sponsorship; 2015: 46 total, 33 with university sponsorship.

Ole Miss (2014): 25 total, 22 with university sponsorship; 2015: 40 total, 34 with university sponsorship.

Michigan State (2014): 44 total, 34 with university sponsorship; 2015: 43 total, 36 with university sponsorship.

LSU (2014): 25 total, 17 with university sponsorship; 2015: 27 total, 16 with university sponsorship.

Cincinnati (2014): 45 total, 40 with university sponsorship; 2015: 44 total, 38 with university sponsorship.

Arkansas (2014): 40 total, 35 with university sponsorship; 2015: 37 total, 31 with university sponsorship.

Iowa State (2014): 42 total, 33 with university sponsorship; 2015: 33 total, 25 with university sponsorship.

Missouri (2014): 28 total, 17 with university sponsorship; 2015: 18 total, 15 with university sponsorship.

Houston (2014): 32 total, 30 with university sponsorship; 2015: 29 total, 27 with university sponsorship.

 

 

 

 

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