Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, December 13, 2000
Decline seen in scholarship applications

Stanford students over the years have consistently won both Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. Established in 1902 by the will of British colonial administrator and financier Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Scholarship pays for all college and university fees for two years and provides students with a stipend for necessary costs and living expenses. It also covers the cost of transportation to and from England.

The British Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 as an expression of gratitude for U.S. aid given under the Marshall Plan after World War II. About 40 awards, which are given only in the United States, are made each year, and recipients can study at any British university. The scholarship pays for university fees, books, living costs and travel expenses for two years.

However, the number of applicants for these scholarships has dropped in the past two years, according to John Pearson, director of the Bechtel International Center. There was a similar drop in the early 1980s, he said.

"We were still getting winners, but there was an evaluation [by Stanford's Rhodes-Marshall Panel] of what it would take to get more applicants," he said. This review spurred more outreach efforts, which, in turn, most likely contributed to an increase in the number of applications.

In the 1990s, there was an average of about 35 applicants from Stanford each year, Pearson said. But in the past two years there has been roughly half that number, he noted.

Now might be the time to seriously evaluate outreach efforts again, Pearson said. But he also acknowledged that the drop in applications could stem from the boom in the technology industry and "immediacy" of high-paying nearby jobs in that market.

This is the first year since 1979 that Stanford has not had a Marshall Scholar, records show.

"Part of me says it may just be one of those ebbs and flows," Pearson said, adding that it is about the fourth time in the last 11 years that Stanford has not had a U.S. Rhodes Scholar.

Pearson said he believes that it has become increasingly difficult for students at the traditionally high-achieving schools -- "the Stanfords, the Harvards, the Princetons" -- to win Rhodes and Marshall scholarships because other schools are making more of an effort to encourage their students to apply for them, creating a larger pool of qualified candidates.

He said selection committees for the scholarships also may be focusing more on reaching out to colleges that have been underrepresented in the past -- or not represented at all -- by scholarship winners.

In any case, Pearson concluded, the school has continued to have, among U.S. universities, a consistently high number of Rhodes and Marshall scholars over the years.