Many families look for colleges that meet full need.
This gives parents confidence that the school will come through with need-based aid to help them pay for college. Unfortunately, not every school that makes this claim really meets 100% of need, at least as far as families are concerned.
Here’s what to look for before your student applies to a college that says they meet full need.
How Hard Is it to Get Into a “Meets Need” School?
Not surprisingly, schools that offer excellent aid are in high demand. As a result, they can be very selective. It’s usually very difficult to get into these schools.
For instance, the Ivy League schools often offer significant aid to lower-income students. If you have an Ivy League caliber student, that’s great!
If not, however, your student may be sorely disappointed if they are counting on getting into a school that offers this type of aid.
|University of Chicago
|University of Southern California
|Claremont McKenna College
|University of Notre Dame
|University of Pennsylvania
|Franklin and Marshall College
|Washington University in St Louis
|Harvey Mudd College
|Bryn Mawr College
|University of Richmond
|Wake Forest University
|California Institute of Technology
|Washington and Lee University
|Johns Hopkins University
|College of the Holy Cross
|Mount Holyoke College
|University of Virginia-Main Campus
|UNC at Chapel Hill
|SUNY Polytechnic Institute
|Southern University at New Orleans
How Is Need Determined?
Another important thing to consider before your student applies to a school promising to meet full need is, how is that need determined?
Many times, the schools offering to cover full need use the CSS Profile to determine that need, instead of the usual Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the FAFSA. This means that the need numbers are proprietary and specific to the school.
As a result, you may find that these schools expect your family to be able to provide more financially than the federal EFC. This makes the need gap smaller, and the aid will be less as well. For instance, the CSS Profile can take into account your home equity and other assets excluded from the federal EFC.
Make sure you’re aware of how need is determined – and whether a school uses the CSS – before you make financial plans about a particular college or university.
Do Colleges Meet Full Need?
One concern many parents have is that much of the aid offered for needy students is in the form of loans.
Federal loans are available to every student, but they have to be paid back. Because students can still graduate with thousands of dollars of debt, this isn’t very useful aid to many families.
You may want to focus on schools that offer a “no loans” financial aid package. These may apply to all students or only to low-income students.
Fifteen schools around the country offer No Loans packages for all students, and almost 60 more have No Loans for lower-income students.
It’s important to keep in mind that although a college may have a “no loan” financial aid policy it doesn’t mean that all loans will be eliminated.
Colleges with “no loan” policies are trying to reduce a student’s need for loans. A “no loans” award doesn’t mean that you won’t need to take on any debt, but hopefully the amount of debt will be lower at graduation than at schools without these policies.
Remember, the school determines what you are expected to pay. If you aren’t actually able to meet that level, you may need to take out federal loans or qualify for private loans to meet the difference.
For example, if a college has determined that your family can afford to pay $12,000 a year, but you can only manage $5,000 through savings and current income, then you’ll have to borrow (either through federal or private loans) to make up the difference.
Before you decide on a school, use their net price calculator to make sure their determination of your need (and any expected student contribution) isn’t significantly higher than your EFC from the FAFSA. If it is, your student may be better off at a school that uses the FAFSA instead.
Colleges Self-Report Meeting Full Need
The final thing to keep in mind when looking at schools that claim to meet full need is that this is self-reported. No one checks on the school’s financial statements to make sure it’s true.
Even when they make these claims, it’s possible that not all students have 100% of need met. For instance, at Brandeis University, 75% of students had their full need met.
We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. Instead, we want to help families have a realistic expectation of what “100% of need met” or “meeting full need” really means.
Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.
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