The balancing act

With financial aid being given for both merit and need, some disagree on how the system functions.

With the ever-growing price of tuition at Hamline, many students depend on financial aid to pursue their degree more than ever. However there are questions to how fair or unfair, the system is at awarding students aid.

“The merit based scholarships, based on admissions are need-blind,” Director of Financial Aid Lynette Wahl said. “When you apply to Hamline, Admissions received information about what your ACT score was, what your class rank was. They use all that to create an index based on those scores. The index tells us your score and that score tells us what your merit based award will be.”

Since scholarships given out by the Office of Undergraduate Admission does not need to be given to a student that is shown to have financial need, anyone can receive them on the basis of what their academic achievement was in high school or other colleges, if they are a transfer student.

“The student will receive a letter saying, ‘Congratulations, you received the Presidential Scholarship for $22,000.’ When the FAFSA comes in, we review the profile in whole,” Wahl said. “Based on knowledge of the merit [award] the student has, they may or may not need additional gift aid. If they do, we deem them ‘needier’ than their merit and add additional scholarship money to the financial package. If we deem them not ‘needy’ or the merit already covered their need, we do not give them additional free money.”

The scholarships from the Admissions Office are need-blind, whereas the scholarships from Financial Aid are not need-blind and look at whether or not students need additional aid.

“In an ideal world, we would be able to meet a hundred percent of people’s needs and reward them for their academic success. But since we live in a fuzzier world, we need to balance both,” Wahl said. “Are there some people that receive additional merit-based award that do not have on paper ‘need,’ absolutely.”

However, this ‘need’ award can be difficult when a student’s need does not show up through the FAFSA.

“We are all struggling and people have their parents to help them,” junior Natalie Pieterick said. “It’s difficult because while someone’s parents might be well off, doesn’t mean that the student is.”

There is also the question of how privilege can influence merit-based awards that award people that do not have need.

“Merit-based scholarships are good, but the narrative of merit becomes one of those that aren’t deserving because they were not extraordinary. While someone that receives a merit-based scholarship might be a product of their privilege,” Adjunct Professor Sam Schmitt said. “We need to disperse scholarships based on structural inequalities.”

After receiving the merit-based awards from the Admissions Office, Financial Aid is left to grapple with how much to award or not to award students in attempt to make it more holistic.

“Some people will say we should focus a hundred percent on need and be able to cover that. While some people say this is fair because people worked hard and we should reward them,” Wahl said. “Ideally it could work better, but we do not have the funds to support the need for all students.”