Merit Aid in the West Region

One of the biggest factors in selecting a college is money. Heck, it’s probably the biggest factor but who likes to admit that. I am nearly done with getting my second and last child through college, and, in both cases, they ended up going to the college that gave them the best deal from the list of schools they were interested in attending. In fact, each of them was given the option, from their loving parents but mainly their awesome father, to attend a more expensive college, but they declined when they weighed the overall value. I’ve always been proud of them for those decisions. One of the more interesting aspects to me when going through this process was which colleges offered non-need-based merit aid. It wasn’t always clear and I really loved it when we stumbled across an institution that offered merit aid based on an established list of high school academic qualifications and test scores. What I wanted to do with this article was consolidate in one place the merit scholarships offered by the West Region schools that offer DIII volleyball. My hope is that it will highlight how the choice for a DIII education can be affordable and often the best choice even when considering DI, DII and NAIA options. (Did I really just say that college “can be affordable”? I meant that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg…just the leg.)

When it comes to volleyball and DIII, we all know that part of those costs will not be offset by athletic scholarships. Going through club volleyball and high school volleyball it was always about which kids were going to a DI program on scholarship. You get the impression over time that each is getting “full rides” and going to their dream school, but in more cases than not this isn’t correct. Unless you are an elite athlete, you will still be paying part of the costs of college and in some cases most of the cost. You sort of get the scholarship bling with out getting any bling where it counts. Early on in my daughter’s recruitment, we figured out that she was going to have to be a walk-on at a DI program or play for a college she didn’t want to attend. Honestly, both were most likely going to be the case. We quickly learned that athletic scholarships for DII and NAIA schools were of minimal amounts and, in most cases, the schools were not at the academic level she wanted. This left DIII but with the knowledge that, since we didn’t qualify for need-based money, unless the college was really expensive, we were going to be paying for the entire cost of the school. Early on in her recruitment she was intent on leaving Texas and was really looking at schools like Franklin & Marshall, Washington & Lee and Vassar. The issue this awesome dad had was that there were no merit scholarships at these schools or, if there were, she had no chance at qualifying for them. Early on, I just assumed this was the case everywhere but when she decided to also include schools in Texas, this proved not to be true. What I needed at the time was a complete list of what merit scholarships each school offered. And, let’s be clear about what I’m talking about here. I wanted to know the amount of merit money that was possible based on a potential student’s application for a four-year renewable scholarship. I figured that there would be a website with this information but the best you could get (and still get, it seems) are publications or websites that report overall numbers with no real sense how it relates to your specific child. So, I did what most every parent did and that was to do your own research, which often entailed numerous emails to the admissions offices.

Let me get sidetracked for a bit about the college admissions process. I can appreciate any admissions people reading this might be doing so with a look of scorn, but let me make it worse for them. Buying a college is really no different than buying a car and a number of the issues you face in understanding the cost of the car are what you face in buying a college. We need a college that will get our child to their destination in 4-years. We need a college that is valuable enough after that time to trade it in for a job. It’s obviously important how our child treated the college during those 4-years, but as parents of soon to be freshman we all believe our child will do their very best to treat college with respect, right? We need a college we can afford. Not FAFSA afford but really afford. Don’t get me started on the FAFSA or even the additional applications some schools require that are basically an assault on your financial person. Where a college and a car differ, unfortunately, is that a car always loses value but a college always increases in cost. In a sense, that makes your scholarships depreciate just like your car’s value. When it comes time to understand the cost of the college, like a car, we really don’t know without a lot of work and back and forth what the purchase price will be. Sometimes you may never know. When my son was looking at schools, he was accepted to Fordham. Since I had two children in college at the same time (and one of them wanted to go to Fordham), I found that I would actually qualify for some need-based aid. All of that aid, however, would go away the next year when my oldest graduates. When I went back to Fordham and explained the issue, that I could afford the freshman year but not the other 3-years, I was told they would work with me next year on this. When I asked for specifics, they told me they couldn’t give me any. I basically had to take a leap of faith. More power to you if you would make that leap. Fortunately, not all schools shared Fordham’s approach.

Okay, sorry about that. What I wanted to do here was basically create a website that had filters where you could enter your child’s academic achievements and see what merit money was out there in the West Region. That is not to be, but I did spend some time with the 41 volleyball playing West Region DIII schools’ admissions websites in an attempt to see how much each offers and whether they provided a breakdown by academic achievements. You can find this information below and if you guys think it’s helpful, I may move it to a permanent page. Some caveats on the data.

  • I did my best, but I make no guarantees of the accuracy. PLEASE correct me where I’m wrong.
  • Remember that I’m interested in automatic merit aid based on specific academic numbers that don’t involve any additional applications. Some schools offer money for a variety of other things, which is not included here.
  • Links to the breakdown are embedded in the “Yes” for the “Defined” column. Links can be to a table or to a calculator that will tell you your child’s specific amount. (I excluded any calculator that required more information than what was needed to determine the merit amount.)
  • CMS and Pomona-Pitzer consists of multiple schools but for the most part none really offer merit in the way I was looking for or in the amounts I thought were meaningful.
  • I listed Colorado College but I was unsure how “automatic” their aid was.
  • Redlands have an Achievement Award up to $30K but it appeared to require “an unusual degree of leadership” so I didn’t include it here. Update – See comments. Appears this qualifies so I’ve added it to the chart.
College

Merit Aid

Range

Defined

Austin College

Yes

$18K to $29k

Yes

Belhaven University

Yes

$5.5K to $15K

Yes

Cal Lutheran

Yes

$5K to $25K

No

Caltech

No

Centenary College

Yes

$10K to $20K

Yes

Chapman University

Yes

Up to $32K

Yes

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

No

Colorado College

Yes

$5K to $10K

No

Concordia University

Yes

$10K to $19K

Yes

East Texas Baptist

Yes

$4K to $11K

Yes

George Fox University

Yes

Up to $16K

No

Hardin-Simmons University

Yes

$12K to $18K

Yes

Howard Payne University

Yes

$7K to $16K

Yes

Johnson & Wales (Denver)

Yes

$5K to $15K

No

LeTourneau University

Yes

$10K to $17K

Yes

Lewis & Clark College

Yes

$15K to $24K

No

Linfield College

Yes

not published

No

Louisiana College

Yes

not published

Yes

Mary Hardin-Baylor

Yes

$7K to $18K

Yes

McMurry University

Yes

$5K to $15K

No

Mills College

Yes

not published

No

Occidental College

Yes

$5K to $25K

No

Pacific Lutheran University

Yes

$6K to $28K

No

Pacific University

Yes

$12K to $24K

Yes

Pomona-Pitzer

No

Schreiner University

Yes

not published

No

Southwestern University

Yes

Up to $27.5K

No

Sul Ross State

No

Texas Lutheran University

Yes

$7K to $20K

Yes

Trinity University

Yes

$18k to $27k

Yes

UC Santa Cruz

No

University of Dallas

Yes

$15K to $30K

No

University of La Verne

Yes

$10K to $30K

Yes

University of Puget Sound

Yes

$13K to $24K

No

University of Redlands

Yes

Up to $30K No
University of St. Thomas

Yes

$9K to $18K

Yes

UT-Dallas

Yes

not published

No

Whitman College

Yes

Up to $20K

No

Whittier College

Yes

$5K to $31K

No

Whitworth University

Yes

$10K to $24K

No

Willamette University

Yes

Up to $27K

No

One thing I think everyone will agree on is how important doing well academically is for high school students.

The chart above doesn’t mention the base cost of each of the colleges so be careful dismissing the schools that offer less merit aid without first checking. I did reach out to a few schools early on trying to find some of the data but most didn’t respond back. Southwestern University surprised me a bit because they did have a breakdown when my daughter went there. They actually did respond back to me and said, “We returned to a holistic scholarship program to parallel our holistic admission process.  We have also chosen to implement a test optional admission policy this year.  These two items make a grid scholarship program impossible to implement.” Southwestern isn’t the only school to have a “holistic” approach, which is why a number of the schools do not have a breakdown. I certainly understand why schools do this but for this purpose it sure makes the process harder.

Another piece of information I found useful during this research was an article on the percentage of students at West Region colleges that received non-need-based merit aid. (These numbers are from 2018-19 and are 30% or above):

School

Percentage receiving Merit Aid

Trinity

50%

Puget Sound

45%

Southwestern

35%

Whitman

34%

Willamette

34%

Lewis & Clark

33%

In other words, I suppose, either these schools have more lenient academic requirements to receive the merit aid or attract a higher academic class.

You have to know that I’m not providing this information purely out of the goodness of my heart. There has to be an angle to all of this. Well, what got me thinking about all of this originally was how this type of merit aid reflects on college recruiting. It stands to reason that the schools that give out the most merit aid to the most students would have a big advantage in recruiting over other schools. Looking at just Trinity and Southwestern and you might be able to make this case, but I don’t think the data taken as a whole supports that premise.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is probably the poster child of a school (or schools) that have done well in volleyball that don’t provide merit aid. From the above 6 schools, the other four are from the Northwest Conference (NWC). This last decade only saw either Whitworth or Pacific Lutheran win their title. Both offer merit aid but not to as many students as these other four schools. I guess the merit aid angle can be used for recruiting (at least I would) but in the end there are other things that go into the decision. I will say that I was really surprised how many of the West Region schools offered merit aid. I know this wasn’t the case when researching colleges for my daughter in the Northeast 8-years ago. I do wish she had looked at more of these colleges during her recruitment but everything did turn out really well in her case. (Well, she did meet her husband there, so not all of it was good. Joke! Whatever, he doesn’t read this site.) Another aspect of these numbers that I haven’t touched on are the public schools. It’s rare to see public institutions offer merit aid, but on the flip side they usually have a cheaper overall cost to attend than a private college.

In closing, and I know I’m repeating myself, but academics are so important to getting to play college volleyball. Not every parent can afford any school their child wants to attend. It’s nice to know there are a number of options in the West Region for those parents, like me, that needed just a little help that wasn’t highlighted by the all-knowing FAFSA.

 

9 thoughts on “Merit Aid in the West Region

  1. Great article, and something i wish i had back when my daughter was looking at schools. She ended up playing 4 years at the University of LaVerne, and loving the school. She was able to get close to the max of $30,000 all 4 years by keeping her grades us, and being involved in school activities. It would be great if volleyball clubs helped kids to understand the benefits of D3 schools, unfortunately they just want to advertise their D1 superstars, and the full ride you probably aren’t going to get.
    PS super happy that Jeff got the coaching position, he deserves it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hello!
    Taking you up on your request for corrections…
    There is definitely merit based aid for the University of Redlands, even with the leadership emphasis that it describes. Maybe put yes with an asterisk to note your explanation in your text? Would be unfortunate for this school to be ruled out by anyone….
    I thoroughly enjoy your articles! Thank you for covering DIII Volleyball!

    Lisa Busch
    U of R student athlete parent

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! Yes, I wanted this type of input. I have corrected the chart to include the “Achievement Award”.

      Thanks for the kind words. Your daughter is awesome, by the way.

      Like

  3. Thank you. This information is so important. I knew how to navigate the process for my daughter because I am a D3 coach and Club Director. She ended up as a D1 walk on at a great school that offered a substantial amount of merit and need-based aid (not FAFSA aid, but the “assault on my financial person aid”).
    It is so hard to get families to realize the amount of research and work they have to do before knowing the actual cost of a school. Whether they don’t want to do the work or they don’t know how to navigate the process, a lot of great, affordable D3 programs get overlooked.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A tangent to this. There is a growing list (at least before you know what) of schools with “no loan” policies. My vball daughter went to such a school, and yes you have to debate your contribution, but once that is done, the rest is covered, that she graduated with no debt is a great thing. Pomona was the only west region school I saw on a couple lists just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of “no debt” schools, I agree. BUT, that FAFSA just kicks your rear in most cases. One of the aspects that I didn’t like about it (and the list is long) is I think there should be a minimum amount the student can exempt so they have something to use during school. Also, I think the parents should be allowed an emergency fund (1-year salary) to exempt because look at how many people need that money now.

      So happy we didn’t have that third child. 🙂

      Like

  5. Very useful post for those just getting started.

    This — “One thing I think everyone will agree on is how important doing well academically is for high school students.”

    Liked by 3 people

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