The College community learned that Bowdoin has been giving merit-based scholarships for the last two years when President Barry Mills was recently pressed about the issue on BCN.
The Faculty Scholars Program provides 100 accepted students with $3,000 stipends if they opt to attend Bowdoin. The stipends are given to students based on academic merit, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities.
Mills stated that the scholarships have become necessary in light of the increasingly competitive nature of the college admissions process. He said it is a tactic that better positions Bowdoin to get the most accomplished students and also asserted that the College "will never be the leader in moving towards more merit aid."
Yet the facts are simple: these scholarships are merit-based awards and Bowdoin flaunts its need-based financial aid policy at every possible opportunity. In admissions information sessions and invitational weekends, deans repeatedly emphasize that financial considerations should never interfere with prospective students' desires to attend Bowdoin. They stress that the College is committed to making a Bowdoin education possible for every qualified individual who wants to come here.
Plenty of intelligent, qualified students want to come to Bowdoin, and by providing a select group of them with financial incentives to matriculate, the College puts other members of that talented applicant pool on unequal footing.
We recognize that the admissions process is becoming more competitive: it is evident in the higher number of applications Bowdoin receives every year and the vigorous, deliberate ways that high school students prepare their resumes, essays, and test scores. But Mills's vague position is worrisome. While we are sure he hopes to keep Bowdoin financial aid need-based as long as possible, his statements make clear that the door is open for more merit-based awards. These would be a regrettable departure from the important need-based tradition that sets Bowdoin apart from other elite colleges.