The numbers are clear: Two-thirds of all students graduating from college in 2011 took out some form of debt. In fact, the average student who borrowed for college and graduated in 2011 owes $26,600, an increase of nearly 5 percent from those who graduated in 2010. Meritus Scholars – whose families do not have the ability to absorb borrowing – are not much different with the average annual debt of $5,800.
Beginning with the class of 2013, Meritus will increase scholarship amounts from $12,000 to $14,000 or from $3,000 to $3,500 per academic year. We are taking this action to respond to the growing debt load our Scholars are incurring, a direct result of the explosion of college costs.
The costs of attending California State University, the University of California, and private schools have increased substantially.
- In the past five years, the average comprehensive cost of attendance for first-year Scholars has increased 26% from $24,762 to $31,251 ($6,489).
- Even with significant increases in grant aid for low-income students (an average of 38% in the 2007-2011 period, from $13,588 to $18,723, or $5,135), the average cost of attendance outpaced grant aid by over $1,300 ($6,489 – $5,135 = $1,354).
As a result, students are borrowing significantly more to make ends meet.
- In the past five years, first-year Scholars have, on average, seen their student loans more than double, from $2,858 to $5,882, an increase of over 100%.
- We estimate that increasing the scholarship amount from $12,000 to $14,000 will slow the growth of student loan debt by reducing the net cost Scholars must pay by borrowing.
This current 14.28% increase, we believe, will help our students better address growing financial obligations. This adjustment will not impact current scholarship pledges – only new scholarships beginning with the class of 2013. The minimum annual donor contribution will remain at $500 for those participating in donor groups, but will require seven contributors instead of six.
Thank you for your continued support as we provide access to significant opportunities which will directly impact the long-term socio-economic circumstances of youth in our community.