Mar 1, 2012

62 Colleges Claim to meet 'Full Financial Need'

US News & World Report (USNWR) recently released its annual survey of colleges and universities claiming to meet 100 percent of financial need for all students.

Down from last year, the list shows how the economy may have affected the ability of some schools to meet the goal like University of Dayton, Reed College, and Connecticut College—all of which dropped off the list. Vanderbilt, however, reappeared after falling off last year.

Frankly, there aren’t many institutions wealthy enough to make a commitment to meet the full financial needs of all admitted students. Locally, Georgetown, UVa, the University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee University are among the few.

And although close to the goal, Johns Hopkins University once again fell short by a few percentage points of meeting full need—only 99.7 percent of Hopkins students had their full need met.Link

But as usual, there are strings attached. Most of the colleges appearing on the USNWR list will only guarantee to meet the needs of students who are US citizens and who apply for financial aid before the school’s posted deadline. For many schools, all bets are off if you are foreign, late, or waitlisted.

And as always, the “Golden Rule” applies. In other words, “He who has the gold makes the rules,” so there are varying definitions of need—most of which will NOT match yours.

For example, some colleges provide enough grant money to make up the difference between a family’s federal Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the school’s total Cost of Attendance (COA). Others calculate their own EFC, using data collected from the CSS PROFILE or other school-based financial aid applications. These more “personalized” formulas may or may not count home equity or other elements of net worth. Under these rules, a student’s level of “need” can vary wildly from college to college.

And how do schools meet full need? That too varies significantly by institution. Some schools provide enough in grants and work-study income to meet a student’s entire need without throwing loans into the mix. Others will offer aid packages that include subsidized student loans.

So it becomes very important for families to review and analyze aid packages to determine the balance between free money or grants that don’t have to be repaid and loans which come due at graduation. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has a great worksheet for this purpose.

While the list of colleges claiming to be committed to meeting full financial aid might seem appealing, keep in mind that you could end up with lower tuition bills at other institutions when you figure in merit scholarships, residency, and regional tuition breaks.

Nevertheless, according to US News and World Report, the following is the list of schools meeting full need in the fall of 2010:

  • Arkansas: Southern Arkansas University*
  • California: California Institute of Technology, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Occidental, Pitzer, Pomona, Scripps, Stanford, Thomas Aquinas, University of Southern California*
  • Connecticut: Trinity, Wesleyan, Yale
  • DC: Georgetown University
  • Georgia: Emory University
  • Iowa: Grinnell College
  • Illinois: Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing,* Northwestern, University of Chicago
  • Massachusetts: Amherst, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Franklin Olin College of Engineering, Harvard, MIT, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Tufts, Wellesley, Williams
  • Maine: Bates, Bowdoin, Colby
  • Minnesota: Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf
  • Missouri: Washington University in St. Louis
  • North Carolina: Davidson, Duke, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  • New Hampshire: Dartmouth College
  • New Jersey: Princeton University
  • New York: Barnard, Colgate, Columbia University, Cornell, Hamilton, Vassar
  • Ohio: Oberlin
  • Pennsylvania: Bryn Mawr, Gettysburg, Haverford, Swarthmore, University of Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island: Brown University
  • Tennessee: Vanderbilt*
  • Texas: Rice University
  • Virginia: Richmond, University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University*
  • Vermont: Middlebury College

* Did not appear on last year’s list

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