UC Quits National Merit Program

Stuart Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, July 14

The University of California announced Wednesday that its campuses will stop participating in the National Merit Scholarship program, contending that the annual competition doesn’t fairly assess academic talent.

The decision means that the six campuses that had been funding scholarships of up to $2,000 a year for National Merit finalists will channel the money into other student awards, starting with the fall 2006 freshman class.

The move is considered a blow to the 50-year-old National Merit program, which is partly funded by campuses and corporations. It annually names about 8,000 scholarship winners, many of whom are recruited as intensely as star athletes by universities around the country.

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The action by the UC campuses follows a 17-0 vote by UC faculty leaders late last month recommending withdrawal from the program. Along with faulting the reliance on the PSAT, faculty leaders noted that Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans accounted for only 3.2% of UC’s National Merit scholarship winners; those groups make up about 19% of all UC undergraduates who receive any type of merit scholarships.

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