The University has been shifting its financial aid budget from merit-based scholarships to need-based aid over the past few years.
This shift is part of AU’s initiative to accommodate prospective students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, according to Brian Lee Sang, director of AU’s financial aid office.
AU will continue to reward academic talent despite this shift, according to Sharon Alston, vice provost of undergraduate enrollment.
“We look at how we can use our resources to help create access for students in the current economy,” she said.
AU spent nearly $71 million on financial aid packages in 2011 and met the needs of 98 percent of freshmen, according to AU’s website. Approximately 44 percent of graduating seniors were left debtless, the website said.
Students who receive need-based aid have their packages reassessed each year, and their rewards are configured based off their economic situation at the time, according to Lee Sang.
“Everything we do is based off a wider national context,” Alston said.
AU was one of the first colleges to send a letter to over 60,000 families asking about their concerns regarding tuition affordability, Alston said.
School of International Service freshman Larry Li said his merit scholarship was one of the reasons he decided to attend AU.
However, Li said he is concerned this shift will lead to fewer enrollments by prospective students with strong high school resumes.
Kogod School of Business freshman Faith Kim, who is a Pell Grant recipient, said need-based aid is crucial for some students.
“Need-based aid ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue the education that they want,” she said.
A Pell Grant is a grant from the federal government given to students who display exceptional financial need, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
Charlotte Zhao, a prospective AU student, said she agreed with the University’s decision.
“It’s one of the reasons that I became interested in AU in the first place,” she said.