Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, incoming students will no longer be able to qualify for the Full Tuition Scholarship from Southern Adventist University using their ACT or SAT superscore, which is the average of their highest subscores from multiple test attempts. This change was enacted after the school saw an 867% increase in the number of freshmen receiving the scholarship over the last 10 years, said Ryan Herman, director of admissions for Enrollment Management.
Herman discussed this trend and Southern’s response in an interview and through email correspondence with the Accent.
Southern began accepting superscores in fall 2019. Since then, the number of incoming students qualifying for full tuition has seen a significant increase, with 37 freshmen recipients in fall 2019 to 58 in fall 2022. Of those 58, 32 superscored.
Herman added, however, that Southern’s freshman class size has been increasing since fall 2018, with the exception of fall 2020.
“It is reasonable to assume that a part of the natural growth we’ve experienced has led to the increase in the Full Tuition Scholarships awarded,” he wrote, “but with the addition of superscoring in fall 2019, the increase became unsustainable from a financial perspective.”
Doug Frood, associate vice president of Financial Administration, explained why he believes this trend is occurring in an email to the Accent.
“What I believe is happening is parents and their students have, at some level, learned how to play the game,” he wrote. “One way to lower the cost of higher ed is getting a merit scholarship. So those who can are focusing on how to do that.”
He added that Southern’s recent success in placing students in medical school has drawn more biology students, many with high GPAs and thus more likely to attain a Full Tuition Scholarship, to the university.
“This [surge] is beginning to spill over to computing, business and chemistry,” Frood wrote.
In the 2021-2022 academic year, Southern spent $3.4 million on Full Tuition Scholarships, said Herman. This year, the amount is closer to $4 million. Southern’s undergraduate enrollment last fall was 2,571, and 186 (7.2%) of those students are receiving the Full Tuition Scholarship.
In addition to removing superscoring from the Full Tuition Scholarship criteria, Southern has introduced a new scholarship: 50% Tuition. Incoming students will be able to qualify for this and lower renewable academic scholarships using their superscore. The other scholarships, renewed each year, are $2,000, $4,000 and $6,000.
Herman said part of the reason Southern has implemented the 50% Tuition Scholarship is because administration recognizes that some students will choose not to come to Southern if they cannot receive full tuition using their superscore. Administrators hope this scholarship will still provide enough incentive; however, the university expects to lose roughly 10 students compared to average enrollment in fall 2023 due to this change.
“However, we expect that some students that qualified for a superscored Full Tuition Scholarship — and now would not qualify — would choose to retake their standardized test to score high enough to receive the Full Tuition Scholarship with the single test results,” Herman added.
The Accent polled 18 students who said they are receiving the Full Tuition Scholarship, three who said they superscored and 15 who said they qualified using their composite scores. The three who superscored indicated that they would have still attended Southern even if they had not qualified for full tuition. Of the 15, eight indicated that they would not have attended Southern if they hadn’t qualified, while seven said they still would have attended.
“I would have likely chosen Southern because most of my senior high school class was planning to attend here,” wrote Josh Kim, senior chemistry major, who receives the Full Tuition Scholarship. “Also, my parents wanted me to go to an Adventist school, and this was the closest one.”
Jeffrey Meadows, junior secondary education-mathematics major, also receives full tuition, but he wrote that he would not have attended Southern had he not qualified for the scholarship.
“With me and my sister needing to come [to college] at the same time, and my younger brother being in academy, my parents paying for all three would’ve been impossible,” Meadows said.
Herman added that the university expects to save $400,000 next academic year due to this change. In four years, the total savings could reach $2 million, depending on enrollment, as fewer incoming freshmen receive the Full Tuition Scholarship and instead receive the 50% Tuition Scholarship.
The university plans to allocate these savings to other scholarships, primarily need-based funding.
“While we love to reward those that are high academically, we recognize that we serve a large, broad range of students,” Herman said. “So, we will be taking a lot of that money and putting it into other scholarships, need-based funding, so it’s not being completely just saved for the university. The intention is to use those funds across a larger number of students.”