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Scholarships vary in yield

Fifty-four members of the Class of 2015 will come to campus in August with the honor of having received one of Duke’s coveted merit scholarships.

These students have been awarded one of the seven individual merit scholarship programs Duke offers. Of the seven, only five met or exceeded their target acceptance yield for the Class of 2015, as two slightly missed their goal.

The Angier B. Duke program will enroll 15 freshmen this Fall, the University Scholars Program will enroll eight, the Alumni Endowed Scholars will enroll one, the Trinity Scholarships will enroll four and the Robertson Scholars Program—which has students at both Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—will enroll 14 Duke scholars, said Melissa Malouf, director of the office of undergraduate scholars and fellows. These programs were the five that achieved their target yield.

Malouf said she does not think the financial component of merit scholarships specifically draws students to Duke as opposed to peer institutions.

“I think that Duke’s scholarship programs do better, overall, in competing against these schools for top applicants not because of the financial package,” Malouf said. “[I think they do better] because of the tight-knit academic communities they can be part of within the larger and exciting community of Duke.”

The Reginaldo Howard Scholarship will enroll four freshmen—barely missing its target of five students. Similarly, the Benjamin N. Duke scholarship program missed its target of 10 with a class size of eight students.

Don Taylor, director of the B.N. Duke scholarship program and assistant professor of public policy, said he is unsure of why the program’s yield varied from the upward trend of the past few years, which enrolled 12 and 14 students for the classes of 2013 and 2014, respectively.

“Trying to land on the number 10 is not easy, since it is a relatively small number, and a few decisions one way or another can have a large percentage effect,” Taylor said.

Some of the students who turned down the B.N. scholarship this year headed to peer institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Taylor added.

The B.N., which awards scholarships to students from North and South Carolina, competes with not just other schools but also with other merit scholarships programs like the Park Scholarship at North Carolina State University and the Morehead-Cain scholarship program at UNC.

“The last few years, our yield success was out of the ordinary,” Taylor said. “You cannot expect to get 15 out of 16 offers over long periods of time with students that have this many great options.”

Senior John Deans, a B.N. Duke scholar and a member of the B.N. Duke selection committee, said this year’s class of scholars was a very successful one. He said the selection weekend held in March—when B.N. finalists interview with the committee—is informal and emphasizes the importance of the scholarship program’s core four values of community, empathy, intentionality and imagination.

Each year, the program’s yield depends upon the individual students who are finalists for the program, Deans said.

“It’s tough to say [why this year differed from others, but] you get different kids every year with different interests,” he added. “For some people, depending on their financial situation, a full ride is more or less important. There are some people who are going to win the scholarship and their financial situation is [such] that they’ll pay to go to Harvard, MIT or Princeton.”

He also noted that the size of the class does not matter as much as the quality of the students that ultimately become B.N. Duke scholars.

“The kids are so accomplished and have so many options that vary year to year,” Deans said.

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