Mar 12, 2011

Colleges Claiming to Meet the 'Full Financial Need' of All Students

US News & World Report (USNWR) recently conducted a survey of 1700 colleges and universities and came up with a list of 63 schools claiming to meet 100 percent of financial need for all students.

Down by 2 from last year, the list shows how the economy may have affected the ability of some schools to meet the goal like Chapman, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and Lafayette—all of which dropped off the list.

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 for the first time, Washington and Lee University appear on the list. Although close to the goal, Johns Hopkins University fell short by a few percentage points of meeting full need and was not included.

In comments provided to USNWR, WLU spokesman Jeff Hanna indicated that “the school made adjustments to its financial aid budget in order to meet the full need of its students via both grants and work opportunities.”

But here is where some strings are 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. Nevertheless, according to US News and World Report, the following is the list of schools meeting full need:
  • California: California Institute of Technology, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Occidental, Pitzer, Pomona, Scripps, Stanford, Thomas Aquinas

  • Colorado: University of Northern Colorado*

  • Connecticut: Connecticut College*, Trinity, Wesleyan, Yale

  • DC: Georgetown University

  • Georgia: Emory University

  • Iowa: Grinnell College

  • Illinois: Northwestern, University of Chicago

  • Massachusetts: Amherst, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Franklin Olin*, 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

  • New York: Barnard, Colgate, Columbia University, Cornell, Hamilton, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Vassar

  • Ohio: Oberlin, University of Dayton*

  • Oregon: Reed College

  • Pennsylvania: Bryn Mawr, Gettysburg, Haverford, Swarthmore, University of Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island: Brown University

  • 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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