ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Miss America Organization says it handed out nearly $6 million in cash or free tuition to contestants last year in its scholarship awards program.
Figures released Friday represent a change in the way the pageant describes its scholarships.
In the past, the group said it made up to $45 million available in annual scholarships. But that figure didn't represent money actually paid out or used by contestants.
Miss America and its state organizations gave more than $5.9 million in cash awards or tuition waivers to contestants across the country last year.
In 2014, more than 350 colleges and universities across the country awarded in-kind tuition waivers to Miss America contestants.
The revised reporting comes nearly a year after political commenter and comedian John Oliver questioned the group's scholarship payout claims.
Sam Haskell, executive chairman of the Miss America Organization, said the group released its figures after employing an educational financial analyst.
"After conducting extensive research through all 52 state organizations and the employment of a top educational analyst, we are pleased to provide full transparency in how our scholarships are awarded, the amounts awarded on an annual basis, and our plans to work with colleges and universities across this great country of ours to access more of what is made available each and every year," he said.
The Miss America Organization, which has long described itself as the nation's largest provider of scholarships to young women, said that in 2014 it paid out $416,500 in national cash scholarships; $106,000 in awards for academic and community service achievements; $2,109,682 in state cash scholarships; $651,952 in state tuition waivers; $1,943,497 in local cash scholarships; and $677,898 in local tuition waivers.
Stezala Consulting LLC, the analyst used by Miss America, gave the following example of how not all the scholarship funds or tuition waivers that are theoretically available to a contestant will be used.
The winner of a particular state contest is awarded $10,000 in cash based on her placement in the competition. In addition, three universities each offer her an in-kind tuition waiver to attend their school: University A offers a waiver worth $40,000 over four years, University B offers a $30,000 waiver, and University C offers a $20,000 waiver.
In total, she is offered $100,000 in both cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers. She chooses to attend University B, which means she accepts $30,000 of in-kind tuition waivers and a $10,000 cash award to pay for her education, for a total of $40,000 total in scholarships.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Wayne Parry, The Associated Press