The incoming Rowan class of 2025 will no longer be able to cover full tuition with merit scholarships. Maximum merit aid available to incoming freshmen is now $10,000 per academic year and cannot be exceeded even through micro-scholarships. This contrasts with previous years, such as 2017, when incoming freshman applicants reportedly received as much as $21,000 per academic year.
The decrease in scholarships reflects broad revision to how admissions will award merit aid upon admission, including no longer considering the SAT or other standardized tests.
According to Associate Director of Admissions Daniel Reigel, scholarships change annually based on available funding. He suggested that students looking to expand their scholarship meet with the Office of Financial Aid.
“Students can contact a financial aid counselor to review their account to maximize available aid,” he said.
Reigel also gave insight into how merit scholarships are now calculated without considering standardized test scores, citing high school GPA, prospective major and residency as current factors.
According to Vice President for University Relations Joe Cardona, this change will promote equity for more students overall.
“The reason for the reduction in the cap was so that we could offer funds to an even greater number of students (i.e., offer three students $10,000 each versus two students at $15,000),” Cardona said via email. “In fact, we added about $2 million more into the fund so that we could offer even more students aid.”
These changes potentially broaden the impact of one of Rowan’s “four strategic pillars” — affordability — to all students.
However, they could also negatively impact the matriculation decisions of individual prospective students who had assumed high merit aid ceilings based on standardized test scores.
Originally from Pennsylvania, senior electrical and computer engineering major Zachary Smoot receives $16,500 annually in admissions-based merit aid. He applied with an SAT score of 1460 in 2017 when SAT score was still the primary basis of the award. Smoot says that the previous merit award system — which still applies to him and all other current students — provided him an incentive to attend Rowan despite the out-of-state tuition costs. He cites “financial suitability,” even in contrast to Pennsylvania state institutions, as a major factor contributing to his attendance.
If he had received $10,000 or less annually in merit aid, Smoot said he “may have still ended up going to Rowan because [he] liked the new engineering building and all the facilities here, but it would have made the decision harder.”
He believes that this change will add pressure on incoming students to seek out external scholarships, a time-consuming process that could resemble a second job’s workload.
He also appreciates the current university effort to keep tuition affordable — including by decreasing tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — in tandem with the effects of 2017 merit aid policies.
“If the options were to increase tuition or decrease scholarships,” he said, “then I’m glad they did what they did [by decreasing scholarships], because I don’t really care about incoming students.”
Current Rancocas Valley Regional High School senior and prospective Rowan student Harrison VanDewater isn’t particularly deterred by the changes, though. VanDewater is unaffected partially because of a scholarship program he qualifies for due to family employment with Inductotherm, a company founded by Henry M. Rowan. However, he also provides some clear-eyed perspective to the matter of his $8,000 a year merit aid offer.
“I think that there are a lot of smart people who don’t do so well on tests, and a lot of dumb people who know how to play the game of standardized tests,” he said. “They shouldn’t award money based on that.”
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