Colleges lavishing more financial aid on wealthy students Spencer Mulligan knew his family could pay for his college education, even without loans or grants. So when the University of Connecticut offered a merit award of $20,000 over four years, he saw it as a bonus. As a discount on in-state tuition, it brought the cost well below half of what his family might have paid at his other top choices, Penn State or the University of Vermont. Financial aid, traditionally a lifeline for poorer students at public colleges, is increasingly being used to attract students from more affluent families. In competition with private schools and other public institutions, the state schools are using the money to lure the most qualified students, raise average test scores and entice students from high-income families who can pay the rest of the full sticker price. Critics say that by devoting aid to students who don't need it, state schools are punishing the poor, making it harder for them to attend college when the gap between tuition costs and affordability is only growing. "The reality is that for poor families, it's a question of whether the kids go to college at all. For the better-off family, it's a question of which college," said Harold Levy, director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides need-based scholarships. "It's a tragic waste of talent. It alters the lives of students." Of the institutional aid given last year to UConn freshmen, the amount not based on need rose to $19.9 million, up from $12.9 million five years earlier. But the school also increased the amount of need-based aid it offered, $50.9 million, up from $38.9 million five years earlier. Really interesting read here regarding financial aid and its use to try to influence wealthier students who might consider other, more expensive, options to come to UConn through the use of Financial Aid. Can really see both sides to this argument. As someone who came to UConn from out of state almost 6 years ago (wow I can't believe it's been that long) with a good amount of Financial Aid I can say that I would not have come to UConn without it.