School says merit-based scholarship changes are part of ‘strategic plan to raise academic standards’

The University of Miami recently notified students of changes to the merit-based scholarship process, but was planning the changes for more than a year, said the university provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

The changes to the scholarship awarding process, which will now focus on financial need and require students to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), are a result of an ongoing effort to improve the university’s academic standards, LeBlanc said.

“We found that a key reason students left [the university] was because they could not afford the remaining years of their college education at UM,” LeBlanc said. “We have a strategic plan to increase the quality of the student body and the retention rate.”

The scholarship process, which was previously run by the individual colleges, will now be administered by the Office of Financial Assistance. LeBlanc said this change is aimed at ensuring scholarships are spread out evenly throughout the campus, but it will still follow donor guidelines and include input from professors.

“If the scholarship specifies that it needs to go to the best senior trumpet player, then that is what we will do,” LeBlanc said. “The goal for the future is to attract more scholarships with [fewer] donor restrictions.”

Although students currently enrolled will now receive money based on financial need, LeBlanc noted that an increased amount of money will be awarded to incoming freshmen as part of the university’s plan to raise academic standards.

“We’re making your degree more valuable,” he said.

While the new scholarship plan may provide more money for incoming students, some current undergraduates don’t agree with the new process.

“If [the university is] going to concentrate on FAFSA, they should account for