Ursinus College on Wednesday announced a new financial-aid scholarship that will cut nearly in half the cost of college for high-achieving students and could improve the school's competitive edge.

The new Gateway Scholarship will offer $30,000 per year for four years and be open to first-year full-time students for fall 2017.

To qualify, students must get at least a 1260 combined reading and math score on their SAT or a composite score of 28 on their ACT, and meet college-prep-level course requirements at Ursinus, a liberal arts college in Collegeville with an enrollment of 1,650.

The move could give an edge to students from more affluent families, who tend to perform better on standardized tests.

But David Tobias, Ursinus' vice president for enrollment management, said the merit aid also will satisfy financial need for some students, and help students from middle-class families who have been struggling to pay for college without federal or state aid.

"Middle-income families increasingly are getting squeezed out of higher education, particularly private higher education, because of the way the financial-aid system is designed," Tobias said. "We're trying to show high-achieving students from any socio-economic background, this is an accessible education for you."

Tuition, fees, and room and board costs at Ursinus for 2016-17 are $61,690. Students who get the scholarship would pay $31,690, not much more than they would at Pennsylvania State or Temple Universities.

Tobias had no estimate on how many students might qualify or what percentage of the college's financial-aid budget, currently $44.8 million, would be used for the Gateway Scholarships. The average SAT score for the current incoming class is 1170.

The hope, Tobias said, is that the scholarship program will "lift our overall population in terms of academic prowess."

Students who qualify for the scholarship also may apply for additional need-based aid, Tobias said. About 20 percent of the college's student body qualifies for federal Pell grants for students from low-income families.

Ursinus does not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores to apply but any student who wants the scholarship must do so, Tobias said.

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