University changes merit-based scholarship process for undergrads

The university administration recently changed the merit-based scholarship application process, according to an e-mail sent out to students in the School of Communication last week.

Undergraduate students applying for merit-based scholarships will now be required to go through the Office of Financial Assistance instead of the various schools and colleges.

Students must also fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which is due Feb. 1.

This change came as a surprise to many faculty members, who were not aware that the process would be changing.

“You know more than I do,” said Tsitsi Wakhisi, a journalism professor and scholarship committee member.

In the past, students did not need to fill out a FAFSA to be considered for merit awards, but Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc said in an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane that the change came partly because the school-based awards were being given to current students without regard to need and were not being allocated efficiently.

“In several schools, endowed scholarship funds were not even awarded each year,” the e-mail said.

Nevertheless, Joe Montgomery, a counselor with the office of admissions, said the School of Communication and the School of Business “did a good job allocating their scholarship money.”

LeBlanc, who was also questioned about the FAFSA’s ability to determine scholarships that are based solely on merit, responded in an e-mail, saying, “Other kinds of information in the application (high school transcript, SAT scores, letters of reference from guidance counselors, etc.) can be used to identify merit for students applying to UM.”

However, it is unclear how these changes will affect the amount of money allocated to current and international students, and how much of a factor financial need will now play under the new process.

LeBlanc agreed to an in-person interview with The Miami Hurricane scheduled for Monday, at which time he will clarify.

James Bauer, director of the Office of Financial Assistance, declined to comment.

When asked how SAT scores and high school transcripts could be used to determine the achievements of a student already enrolled at the university, Bauer said all such questions needed to be addressed by LeBlanc.

To Know:

FAFSA forms may be filed online at Students will need to have income tax returns, bank statements and investment records on hand to fill out the lengthy forms. To speed up the process, the Web site recommends signing the forms electronically, which requires students and their parents to apply for a personal identification number.

The Office of Financial Assistance Services is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Liana Kozlowski may be contacted at and Bryan Llenas may be contacted at