Monday, May 23, 2011

In reducing merit aid, Brandeis University is also improving yield

It is always in a university's best interest to improve its yield rate, defined as the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll.  A high yield rate not only makes for a more efficient admissions process, it also indirectly helps a college's ranking.  Although the USNWR rankings do not measure yield directly, they do factor in acceptance rate, which is inversely proportional to yield.  The more students accept a school's offer, the fewer offers it has to extend.  Acceptance rates are important and widely used in judging a school's selectivity.

From the Brandeis student newspaper:
According to Vice President of Enrollment Keenyn McFarlane, the number of merit scholarships offered to students has been gradually reduced in recent years and will be further reduced for the Class of 2015. The further reductions are due to the fact that many students offered merit aid in recent years declined attend the University.
According to McFarlane, the reduction of merit-based aid has been "ongoing" for "several years." McFarlane said that after reviewing the incoming class each year, the administrators in Enrollment found that they were more "effective" in being able to fund students when money was given in the form of need-based financial aid rather than merit scholarships since the number of students who received merit-based aid and matriculated into Brandeis has declined by 78 percent since 2006. McFarlane said the University also has a higher yield rate of matriculation when need-based aid is given rather than merit scholarships. The number of merit aid offered to accepted students has declined by 16 percent since 2006....
McFarlane said that giving money in the form of financial aid need rather than merit scholarships would be more in line with the "social justice philosophy" of Brandeis. "We want to be giving out money to those who need it," he said....
Additionally, McFarlane also said that he does not believe that the elimination of merit scholarships will affect the competitiveness of students applying to and attending Brandeis. McFarlane said that although the number of students with merit scholarships has declined, the performance of accepted students has not. According to statistics from the Office of Enrollment, the average SAT scores of students accepted in to Brandeis has remained near 1400 on a 1600 scale. The average SAT scores of students who have matriculated have remained in the mid-1300s.


  1. Often, offering a "little" merit ($10-20K) is used very effectively by colleges to bump up their yields, drawing in high-income, high-stats students who might otherwise go elsewhere, perhaps state schools with lower costs. Not exactly sure what's happening here with Brandeis, but they seem to be bucking a trend of relatively increasing merit aid I've been reading about.

  2. It may be that so many schools are now offering merit aid, that the bump in yield no longer exists. If you are a top student, and both Brandeis and Harvard are offering you merit aid, you know which one you are going to pick...

    Back when I was a senior in high school, I was a National Merit finalist. One of the podunk private liberal arts colleges in KY offered me a free ride. But BU offered me enough aid to make it cheap enough, even though it wasn't a free ride, so I went there because they are a much better school.

  3. But Harvard doesn't offer merit aid, so that's why this strategy can work for lower-tier schools. If a student can save $80k by going to Brandeis instead of Harvard, the decision becomes a little clearer. Not easy, but it's something mid/upper class families consider.

    And then there's the almost full-ride schools for Merit Finalists and other high achievers that are down lower in the ranks. They're attracting some top students, too.