Paying for College

Financial Aid: Meeting Your Full Need

An excellent U.S. News article entitled Colleges and Universities That Claim to Meet Full Financial Need reveals a lot of information probably not known by most families, especially those going through the college admissions process for the first time. The key word in that article title is “Claim."

The subtitle of the article states a surprising reality: “Just three public schools met 100 percent of demonstrated financial need in 2013-2014, according to U.S. News data." Reaction by posters on the College Confidential discussion forum was, predictably varied:

– … these schools use the CSS Profile or their own form (Princeton uses it's own form) in addition to the FAFSA…and the colleges compute your family contribution and need….you don't get to do this …

– There are a couple I am aware of that promise to meet full need that are not on this list. That may be because this about who MET it last year, not who says they WILL meet it this year. I'm thinking of Albright and Northeastern, off the top of my head. Albright does it with on FAFSA, too …

– “Meet full need" leaves a lot of room for variations in the financial aid package. See the examples here, where net price calculators at two “meet full need" schools gave net prices that differ by $39,726 for one example:

U.S. News notes:

… Schools that meet 100 percent of need can use a combination of loans, scholarships, grants and work-study to fill the gap between the cost of attendance – tuition, fees, room, board and other expenses – and the expected family contribution, a number determined by the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, including tax data, assets and family size …

The sneaky word in that sentence is “loans." Student loan debt is a hugeproblem for today's college students and families. As one skeptical CC poster notes:

– Well, the point is, a “meet full need" claim does not mean that the school's financial aid is good, or necessarily better than that of a school that does not make such a claim. The net price calculator estimate may be a more reliable guide for a given family financial situation.

Apparently, the ability to meet families' financial aid need tracks a school's U.S. News ranking altitude:

Of those schools that made it on the list, only two aren't top-50 finishers in their categories. California's Thomas Aquinas College, tied with three other schools at No. 77 among National Liberal Arts Colleges, and Bethany College in Kansas, ranked No. 68 among Regional Colleges (Midwest), fall short.

Well, who are those schools, according to U.S.News? Here's a sampling:

School name (state)U.S. News rank and category
Amherst College (MA)2, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Barnard College (NY)32, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Bates College (ME)19, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Bethany College (KS)68, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
Boston College31, National Universities
Bowdoin College (ME)5, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Brown University (RI)16, National Universities
Bryn Mawr College (PA)

27, National Liberal Arts Colleges
California Institute of Technology

10, National Universities
Carleton College (MN)

8, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Carroll University (WI)

41, Regional Universities (Midwest)
Claremont McKenna College (CA)

8, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Colby College (ME)

15, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Colgate University (NY)

22, National Liberal Arts Colleges
College of the Holy Cross (MA)

34, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Columbia University (NY)

4, National Universities
Cornell University (NY)

15, National Universities
Dartmouth College (NH)

11, National Universities
Davidson College (NC)

11, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Duke University (NC)

8, National Universities
Franklin and Marshall College (PA)

37, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Georgetown University (DC)

21, National Universities
Grinnell College (IA)

19, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Hamilton College (NY)

15, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Harvard University (MA)

2, National Universities
Harvey Mudd College (CA)

15, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Haverford College (PA)

8, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Johns Hopkins University (MD)

12, National Universities
Macalester College (MN)24, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)

7, National Universities
Middlebury College (VT)

7, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Mount Holyoke College (MA)

41, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Northwestern University (IL)

13, National Universities
Oberlin College (OH)

23, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Occidental College (CA)

44, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Pitzer College (CA)

35, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Pomona College (CA)

5, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Princeton University (NJ)

1, National Universities

And how does Yale University (U.S. News #3 school and at the bottom of their alphabetical “full-need" chart) go about meeting families' aid needs? Here's what they say:

Yale Financial Aid 101:

– Yale is committed to a need-blind admissions policy and meets 100% of demonstrated need for all students regardless of citizenship.

– Yale does not require students to take out loans for their education. Instead, Yale meets 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students with a financial aid package consisting of need-based scholarships, term-time employment, and a student income contribution.

– The average Yale Scholarship grant was $41,250 for the 2013-2014 school year.

– The median net cost for students receiving financial aid was $11,925 for the 2013-2014 school year.

– The total cost of attendance at Yale for 2014-2015 is $63,250, which includes tuition ($45,800), room ($7,800), board ($6,200), and books and personal expenses ($3,450). Total cost of attendance (not just tuition) is used to calculate a student's need-based financial aid award.

– Roughly 52% of Yale students receive need-based financial aid.

– Families whose total gross income is less than $65,000 (with typical assets) are not expected to make any financial contribution towards their child's Yale education. 100% of the student's total cost of attendance will be financed with a Yale Financial Aid Award.

– Families earning between $65,000 and $200,000 (with typical assets) annually contribute a percentage of their yearly income towards their child's Yale education, on a sliding scale that begins at 1% just above $65,000 and moves toward 20% at the $200,000 level.

– There is no strict income cutoff for financial aid awards. Many families with over $200,000 in annual income receive need-based aid from Yale.


So, be a consummate consumer. Check out those “claims" of “100% of need met. Again, beware the word “loan" in any of its many forms.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.