Educators are divided about whether financial aid should be more need-based or merit-based.  Those who favor merit scholarships based on academic accomplishments feel that the state should reward those who have worked the hardest, while preventing high-achieving individuals from leaving their home state.

New York is one of 26 states in which 85-100% of publicly-funded financial aid is based on need, not merit — along with all the states in the Northeast and the West Coast. See interactive WSJ graphic of College Grant Aid by State, 2010-11.

Yet many states, particularly in the South, are shifting toward merit based financial aid.  According to the Wall Street Journal, 27 states have developed a merit-aid program following Georgia’s lead in 1993 with the HOPE program and Florida’s Bright Futures program.  For example, students living in areas of Georgia with median incomes greater than $50,000 were three times more likely to win Zell Miller Scholarships (full HOPE scholarships) than those from areas with median incomes less than $50,000.

In support of CU Boulder’s new merit scholarship program, Chancellor Phillip P. DiStefano says that the university must ensure that “Colorado’s best and brightest students enroll and graduate here, and move on to productive lives in Colorado.” (CU Boulder News). However, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research questions the validity of that argument with the finding that merit scholarships have a minimal impact on migration patterns.