Arizona State U to Revisit Scholarship Programs, Incentives

Budget cutbacks are forcing the Arizona Board of Regents to reevaluate their college scholarship programs, The Arizona Republic reports. The board is considering suggestions for using the scholarship money provided by the state more efficiently, contemplating changes that would reward good academic performance and penalize students for failing to maintain a minimum GPA. A new task force, formed this month, will consider suggestions and offer recommendations to the board in the coming spring.

In Arizona, the state universities provide the bulk of scholarship funding – $366 million for the 2009-10 school year. A portion of tuition revenue is earmarked for financially needy students. Other scholarships are awarded by academic merit or a combination of need and merit.

Currently, each university in the state has a different scholarship policy, but as part of the overhaul, the board will be looking at ways to standardize the programs across campuses.

Among other changes considered will be a minimum GPA requirement for retaining scholarships from year to year, as well as limiting scholarships to the first 120 college credits. The board is also considering more of a carrot-and-stick approach, offering students extra money for good performance, while at the same time inserting claw-back provisions in cases when students drop or fail courses.

The board will also look at ways to shift funds towards fields considered critical to the state’s economy. Students who major in sciences, mathematics or technology might see their scholarship packages increase. This will also discourage students from seeking out “easier” majors in order to maintain their GPA.

Arizona’s goal to gain more for their financial aid buck is part of a trend, says Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org. Other schools are also looking to move their scholarship programs to a more performance-based model thinking that it will increase their return on investment. One such program was recently implemented at the University of New Mexico:

The University of New Mexico, for example, has a program for low-income students that provides $1,000 a semester on top of other financial aid they receive if they maintain at least a C average and enroll in 15 credits a semester. Early results show students in the program tend to take more credit hours compared with others.