Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies

First Advisor

C. Spencer Platt


Institutional merit-based financial aid awards are widely utilized by enrollment management practitioners to attract and retain students desired by the institution and to increase net tuition revenue. While much research has been conducted on federal need-based aid and statewide merit aid, relatively few studies have been conducted on merit aid awarded at the institutional level. This study sought to contribute to the literature by examining the effect of institutional merit aid on initial enrollment as well as student persistence at a large public research university located in the Southeastern United States. A quasi-experimental design was used to study two nearly identical cohorts of students at a large, public research university; one cohort received a small “vanity” scholarship while the other cohort did not. Binary logistic regression models were run to determine the impact of these scholarships on initial enrollment and retention. Academic, biodemographic, and financial variables were retrieved from institutional admissions, financial aid, and enrolled student databases to create the regression models. The results of this study found institutional merit aid has a statistically significant impact on initial enrollment but failed to increase net tuition revenue or improve the academic profile of the entering class. The study also found that the scholarships went to students who were already likely to enroll at the institution, that it encouraged enrollment of females and majority students, and deterred enrollment of low-income Pell students. This study also found that institutional merit aid has a statistically significant positive impact on student persistence, but the gains in retention do not increase net tuition revenue. While overall retention improved for scholarship recipients, retention of males and first-generation students were negatively impacted by the scholarship. Lastly, institutional merit aid appears to have a positive impact on retention even for students who lost their scholarship after the first year of enrollment.


© 2023, Richard Scott Verzyl