Capstone Brings in National Merit Scholars

Cate Kennedy

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corp.’s recent annual report, the University of Alabama ranked in the top 10 out of more than 600 public universities nationwide in the enrollment of National Merit scholars for 2009-2010. The fall 2009 freshman class included 103 scholars. Out of 2,400 public and private universities nationwide, UA ranked No. 24 in number of National Merit scholars enrolled.

“UA’s ranking is up from last year when the University ranked 11th among public universities and 28th overall,” University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said in a written statement.

In addition, UA is also among the top enrollers of National Achievement Scholars, an award given to the top black scorers. The Capstone ranked third out of all public universities and 16th out of all universities, public and private.

Among the SEC’s public universities, UA ranked second only to the University of Florida’s enrollment of both National Merit and National Achievement scholars. An institution that enrolls over 50,000 students, the University of Florida enrolled 158 National Merit scholars and 22 National Achievement scholars in its fall 2009 freshman class.

“These rankings reflect our continued success in attracting some of the nation’s most talented students,” said UA President Robert E. Witt in a press release. This year’s freshman class also includes over 1,100 students who carried a 4.0 or higher grade point average in high school.

“We are pleased that these outstanding students and their families appreciate the academic quality and value that the University of Alabama offers,” Witt said.

For this year’s scholars, the competition for National Merit and National Achievement awards and recognition began in fall 2007. High school students enter the competition by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test. Currently, more than 1.5 million students qualify to enter the National Merit Program each year.

Of the 1.5 million students who meet the requirements to take the test, 50,000 earn scores that qualify them for program recognition. Approximately two-thirds of the high scorers are named commended students on the basis of a nationally applied qualifying score, which is generally in the 96th percentile.

The remaining one-third, about 16,000 students, are designated semifinalists on a state-representational basis. As each state’s top scoring entrants, they are the only ones who have the opportunity to continue in the competition for Merit Scholarship awards. The National Merit Scholarship Program uses several other criteria to determine the finalists. Approximately 90 percent of the Semifinalists, or 15,000 students, fulfill these requirements.