One of the things that many families look for is a college that says they meet “100% of student 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 school that says they meet full need.
How Hard is it to Get In?
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.
College % Admitted Columbia University 7 Yale University 6 Harvard University 5 Amherst College 14 University of Chicago 8 Williams College 18 Colgate University 29 Princeton University 7 University of Southern California 17 Pomona College 9 Vassar College 27 Barnard College 17 Dartmouth College 11 Stanford University 5 Haverford College 21 Duke University 11 Smith College 37 Claremont McKenna College 9 Georgetown University 17 Northwestern University 11 Swarthmore College 13 Wellesley College 29 Hamilton College 26 University of Notre Dame 19 University of Pennsylvania 9 Franklin and Marshall College 36 Carleton College 23 Vanderbilt University 11 Middlebury College 16 Colby College 19 Pitzer College 14 Trinity College 34 Colorado College 16 Bates College 23 Cornell University 14 Washington University in St Louis 17 Harvey Mudd College 13 Grinnell College 20 Bryn Mawr College 40 University of Richmond 32 Wake Forest University 30 California Institute of Technology 8 Occidental College 46 Davidson College 20 Washington and Lee University 24 Brown University 9 Dickinson College 43 Lafayette College 28 MIT 8 Wesleyan University 18 Bowdoin College 15 Macalester College 37 Tufts University 14 Skidmore College 29 Connecticut College 35 Rice University 15 Oberlin College 28 Kenyon College 27 Reed College 31 Emory University 25 Union College 37 Johns Hopkins University 13 Scripps College 30 College of the Holy Cross 38 Northeastern University 29 Boston College 31 Mount Holyoke College 52 Augustana University 69 University of Virginia-Main Campus 30 UNC at Chapel Hill 27 SUNY Polytechnic Institute 64 Southern University at New Orleans 12
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.
Loans Vs. Other Aid
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.
(Get more information on the schools that meet 100% of need. Included in this list is average amount of need award, % of students who do not receive need-based aid; and the average amount of non-need money awarded to students without need.)
Schools Self-Report Meeting Full Need
The final thing to keep in mind when looking at schools that claim to meet 100% of 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” really means.
Are you looking to save money on school? We can help. Find colleges that can be the most generous to your student with merit scholarships. Use our College Free Money Finder to make the searching fast and easy!
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