Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarships–Part Two

Note: This post has not been updated for two years, and some of the offerings listed are not current. We are currently working on an update. Many of the scholarships offered by the institutions listed below are NOT restricted to National Merit Scholars. We include them to show “full ride” and other high-value options.

In a separate post, Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding, we use the official annual reports of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to list the universities that sponsor some form of NMS scholarships, even though the individual award amounts may be limited.

And here is a list published by U.S. News that shows colleges with highest percentage of merit aid, based on enrollment. This map does not assess actual net remaining costs after merit aid, however.

In this post, we will provide a table that shows more than 120 universities, public and private, which provide full tuition, tuition “plus”, full ride, and full ride “plus” funding for national aard winners. In most cases, the tuition is at least at the in-state level, with many offering in-state tuition to out-of-state scholars. Tuition “plus” means that the extra award can be quite generous, including stipends and other funding that approach full ride status. Full ride “plus” is tuition, room, board, and additional funds for study abroad, conferences, and other activities.

Listed first on the table are hools that tie awards specifically to National Merit Scholars. Each of these schools has “nms” beside its name, for National Merit Scholarship. Colleges listed below these provide equivalent generous merit awards, though they are not in all cases linked to National Merit Scholars. Many of these will have less stringent requirements, but there are exceptions.

It is important to know that some of the universities listed offer VERY FEW scholarships of the type listed. For example, the Jefferson Scholarships at the University of Virginia are valued at $150,000 (in-state) and $280,000 (OOS), but only 36 extremely fortunate students are selected.

UniversityAward TypeNat Merit
Alabamatuition plusnms
Arizonafull ride plusnms
Arizona Statetuitionnms
Auburntuition plusnms
Cincinnatituition plusnms
Clemsonfull ride plusnms
Connecticutfull ridenms
Houstonfull ride plusnms
Idahofull ridenms
Kansastuition nms
Kentuckytuition plusnms
Louisvillefull ride plusnms
Loyala Chicagotuitionnms
Massachusettsfull ridenms
Memphistuition plusnms
Minnesota Morris tuitionnms
Mississippifull ridenms
Mississippi Stfull ridenms
Murray Stfull ridenms
Nebraskatuition plusnms
Nevada Las Vegasin state tuitnms
Nevada Renoin state tuitnms
New Mexicofull ridenms
New Mexico Stfull ride plusnms
NJITfull ridenms
North Dakota Stfull ridenms
Okla Sttuition plusnms
Oklahomatuition plusnms
Southern Missfull ridenms
Texas A&Mfull ridenms
Texas Sttuitionnms
Texas Techfull ridenms
Tulsafull ridenms
UCFfull ridenms
UNTfull ride plusnms
UT Arlingtonfull ridenms
UT Tylerfull ride plusnms
Utahtuition plusnms
West Virginiatuition plusnms
Wichita Stfull ride plusnms
Alaska Anchoragetuition plus
Appalachian Stfull ride
Boston Collegetuition
Case Westernfull ride
Centrefull ride plus
Chicagofull ride
Clarkfull ride
College of Charlestonfull ride plus
Colorado Collegetuition plus
Davidsonfull ride plus
Delawarefull ride
Drexelfull ride
Dukefull ride plus
George Masontuition
Georgiafull ride
Georgia Statefull ride
Georgia Techfull ride
Grand Valley Sttuition
Holy Crosstuition
Illinois Chicagofull ride
Indianafull ride
Iowa tuition plus
Iowa Statefull ride
Kent Sttuition
LSUfull ride plus
Marylandfull ride plus
Miami Univfull ride plus
Michigan Stfull ride plus
Michigan Techfull ride
Minnesotatuition plus
Mississippi Collegefull ride
North Carolinafull ride plus
North Carolina Stfull ride plus
North Dakotatuition
Northeasternfull ride
Notre Dametuition
Oberlinfull ride plus
Ohio Stfull ride plus
Ohio Univtuition plus
Oregonfull ride
Pittfull ride plus
Purduetuition plus
Richmondfull ride
Rochesterfull ride
Santa Claratuition plus
South Carolinaclose to full
South Dakotafull ride plus
Southern Illinoisfull ride
St. Louis Univtuition
Syracusefull ride
Truman Stfull ride plus
Tulanefull ride plus
Univ at Buffalofull ride
Univ of Miamifull ride
USCtuition plus
UT Austintuition plus
UT Dallastuition plus
Va Commonwealthfull ride plus
Vanderbilttuition plus
Virginiafull ride
Virginia Techfull ride
Wake Forestfull ride plus
Washington and Leefull ride
Washington Sttuition
William and Maryfull ride
Wisconsintuition plus
WUSTLfull ride plus
Wyomingfull ride


Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding

Editor’s note: This list is now updated effective June 28, 2017, to include data for 2016 compared to 2015.  This is the most recent data available.

Below we list enrolled merit scholars, 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 2016 are the University of Chicago with 277 merit scholars (185 of them with university sponsorship); USC with 230 merit scholars (189 with USC support);Vanderbilt with 220 scholars (166 with university support); and Northwestern with 168 scholars (125 with school support).

It is noteworthy that some of the above private elites have reduced the total number of NMS scholars enrolled and the number of scholars receiving university sponsorship. Indeed, Washington University in St. Louis had 212 merit scholars enrolled in 2014, 159 with university sponsorship. In 2016, this number fell to 33 scholars enrolled, none with university sponsorship.

This is also a trend for most, but not all, public universities listed below. Of the 23 public universities listed, only 8 have increased their sponsorship of national merit scholars year over year. 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.  These and other universities may also have some scholarships for valedictorians and other highly qualified scholars.

Of these leading public universities that do not sponsor merit scholars, UC Berkeley had the most enrolled merit scholars, 161, followed by UT Austin with 74. Among private universities, Harvard enrolled 233 merit scholars, Stanford 179, MIT 154, Yale 147, and Princeton 117.

The University of Wisconsin only sponsored 5 merit scholars in 2016, out of 17 enrolled at the university.

The University of Oklahoma returned in 2016 to the number 1 position in enrollment of national merit scholars among all universities public or private (279) and the number receiving university sponsorship (236).

Below is a list of public universities that still match or fund National Merit Scholars, regardless of need, and that had 25 or more university-sponsored merit scholars in 2016. We will list the university, followed by the total number of merit scholars in the 2015 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 2016.

As a general rule, the higher the number of school-supported merit scholars, the greater the recruitment is for merit scholars. Colleges with a year over year increase in sponsored scholarships are in bold. All colleges are listed in order of their total merit scholar enrollment in 2016. A total of 16 of the 23 universities are in the South or Southwest.

Oklahoma (2015): 288 total, 240 with university sponsorship, (2016): 279 total, 236 with university sponsorship (still most in the nation).

Alabama (2015): 148 total, 120 with university sponsorship; (2016): 155 total, 135 with university sponsorship.

Florida (2015): 146 total, 113 with university sponsorship; (2016): 158 total, 119 with university sponsorship.

Minnesota (2015): 147 total, 115 with university sponsorship; (2016): 150 total, 113 with university sponsorship.

Purdue (2015): 94 total, 68 with university sponsorship; (2016): 125 total, 98 with university sponsorship.

Texas A&M (2015): 142 total, and 120 with university sponsorship; (2016): 122 total, 90 with university sponsorship.

UT Dallas (2015): 101 total, 78 with university sponsorship; (2016): 119 total, 94 with university sponsorship.

Arizona State (2015): 112 total, 94 with university sponsorship; (2016): 109 total, and 89 with university sponsorship.

Kentucky (2015): 111 total, 93 with university sponsorship; (2016): 99 total, 88 with university sponsorship.

Univ of Central Florida (2015): 69 total, 59 with university sponsorship; (2016): 77 total, 68 with university sponsorship.

Auburn (2015): 64 total, 51 with university sponsorship; (2016): 60 total, 52 with university sponsorship.

Maryland (2015): 61 total, 48 with university sponsorship; (2016): 52 total, 42 with university sponsorship.

Indiana (2015): 68 total, 50 with university sponsorship; (2016): 52 total, 38 with university sponsorship.

Cincinnati (2015): 44 total, 38 with university sponsorship; (2016): 50 total, 36 with university sponsorship.

Arkansas (2015): 37 total, 31 with university sponsorship; 2016: 45 total, 38 with university sponsorship.

Arizona (2015): 65 total, 57 with university sponsorship; (2016): 43 total, 37 with university sponsorship.

Clemson (2015): 55 total, 41 with university sponsorship; (2016): 43 total, 36 with university sponsorship.

Ole Miss (2015): 40 total, 34 with university sponsorship; (2016): 43 total, 30 with university sponsorship.

Georgia (2015): 42 total, 28 with university sponsorship; (2016): 39 total, 31 with university sponsorship.

Mississippi St (2015): 37 total, 33 with university sponsorship; (2016): 37 total, 29 with university sponsorship.

Nebraska (2015): 47 total, 41 with university sponsorship; (2016): 36 total, 31 with university sponsorship.

South Carolina (2015): 46 total, 33 with university sponsorship; (2016): 36 total, 31 with university sponsorship.

Michigan State (2015): 43 total, 36 with university sponsorship; (2016): 34 total, 30 with university sponsorship.