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College Financial Aid Isn't Going to the Neediest

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Replies to: College Financial Aid Isn't Going to the Neediest

  • tugtravellertugtraveller 3 replies0 discussions
    So many times I have heard both young people and parents rant about the "lucky poor" when it comes to college financial aid. We are solidly in the middle class, but I was interested to see how this would play out in my daughter's graduating class & who would end up where.

    One big surprise for us turned out to be a girl who was one of the top students, a true academic powerhouse, near perfect SAT scores, and solid extra-curriculars. But, her high-tech dad had been unemployed for over a year, and they were just scraping by on unemployment plus the mom's part-time salary as a librarian. She wanted a small LAC & applied everywhere, including Ivys, places with good merit aid, colleges her parents had gone to. Guess what? She wasn't accepted at any of them, including Pomona College where her parents were alums. Because it was clear she would need a full ride. She ended up in some college I have never heard of, in a very cold harsh-winter place, and she was offered a lot of loans, to boot.

    College Confidential grumbling always says -- "oh, if only we were poor.... we'd have it made... we'd get more aid..."

    Well, that certainly wasn't what we saw with the graduating class at my daughter's high school. Most high achieving low-income students ended up at community college, local state colleges where they could live at home to save money, or for the tippy-top academic students, small colleges in harsh winter climates that no one from our area had ever heard of.

    Our personal EFC was much higher ($40,000, not that we could afford that), and my kiddo who was not in the valedictorian circle with some of these 4.6 gpa kids, was accepted almost everywhere she applied, including 2 Iveys, Vanderbilt, WashU StLouis, etc. I remember chatting with the mom, who obviously was very hurt & dissapointed that near-perfect SAT, valedictorian, extra-curriculars etc. had not gotten her daughter the college offers they had expected. She said, "Well, I guess they can only afford to give out so many full rides." Which, I guess does make sense when you think about it.

    So, those on CC whining and complaining about those "lucky poor people"
    I say.... the grass may look greener on the other side.... but its not easy to get those full rides, even for the academically gifted and POOR!
    edited May 2013
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  • Jiskjaskst234032Jiskjaskst234032 2 replies0 discussions Forum Champion
    I have never heard that myth, but I have heard about colleges not giving a dam about poor kids.
    edited May 2013
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 34 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    Kudos to Amherst who serves the highest proportion of low-income students with near zero EFC.

    According to ipeds, the federal db, Univ. of Southern California serves just as many (on a % basis) Pell grantees as does Amherst (22%). NYU is close at 21%. (Of course, NYU doesn't meet full financial need.)

    And each UC campus easily beats that number, with ~33%.
    Schools that don't offer merit aid:

    ....
    Cornell

    Cornell does indeed have a merit scholarship.
    edited May 2013
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  • OrchidBloomOrchidBloom 45 replies2 discussions
    @tugtraveller: I thought need-blind schools evaluated applications without ANY of the FA application stuff...so how would they have even known about her financial situation? Of course, there's a very good chance I'm just completely mistaken about how things work. Rejecting based on need though...doesn't that just completely go against the whole need-blind thing? I'm surprised no one has kicked up a fuss about it happening. I'm still a bit hesitant to believe that this is happening on a widespread basis since this is just a few anecdotal cases, and admission to top colleges is very unpredictable.

    Note: I'm NOT saying in any way that I don't believe that it's hard for lower income students to get into top schools (especially with many of the other challenges they face), just that I'm not convinced that open discrimination is happening against them.
    edited May 2013
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  • baseballmombaseballmom 4 replies0 discussions New Member
    I certainly haven't read every post on CC, but I have never seen anyone complainng about the lucky poor. I have seen many complaining about the lack of financial aid they were awarded, almost as if it were somehow owed to them.
    edited May 2013
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 34 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    Tne big surprise for us turned out to be a girl who was one of the top students, a true academic powerhouse, near perfect SAT scores, and solid extra-curriculars. But, her high-tech dad had been unemployed for over a year, and they were just scraping by on unemployment plus the mom's part-time salary as a librarian. She wanted a small LAC & applied everywhere, including Ivys, places with good merit aid, colleges her parents had gone to. Guess what? She wasn't accepted at any of them, including Pomona College where her parents were alums. Because it was clear she would need a full ride.

    Not buying it, sorry.

    btw: legacy only works if a student ED's. Did she submit an early app to Pomona? If not it is a clear indication to them that they are not her first choice.
    edited May 2013
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 295 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    One big surprise for us turned out to be a girl who was one of the top students, a true academic powerhouse, near perfect SAT scores, and solid extra-curriculars. But, her high-tech dad had been unemployed for over a year, and they were just scraping by on unemployment plus the mom's part-time salary as a librarian. She wanted a small LAC & applied everywhere, including Ivys, places with good merit aid, colleges her parents had gone to. Guess what? She wasn't accepted at any of them, including Pomona College where her parents were alums. Because it was clear she would need a full ride. She ended up in some college I have never heard of, in a very cold harsh-winter place, and she was offered a lot of loans, to boot.

    Translated: she applied to all reach schools (including the one that was a financial reach due to being really too expensive with too much in the way of loans) and get all rejections except for one acceptance at a school that was really too expensive. She should have included an affordable safety, possibly from this list of http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/1348012-automatic-full-tuition-full-ride-scholarships-18.html#post15895768, or an in-state public if she lived in a state with in-state publics that meet need and are assured admissions for her stats.
    edited May 2013
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  • shpgrlshpgrl 10 replies2 discussions Forum Champion
    @bluebayou
    “Cornell does indeed have a merit scholarship.”

    Can you provide more information about Cornell’s merit scholarship? Thanks. I'd like to know.

    According to the school web site, it offers need based aid only.
    Grants and Scholarships | Financial Aid
    edited May 2013
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  • Sue22Sue22 31 replies2 discussions New Member
    None of the Ivies or NESCACs give merit scholarships, although some have named scholarships as part of their need-based financial aid packages or merit based funds available for things like summer research.
    edited May 2013
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 34 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    It's a small amount over four years, but the bulk of the Scholars are incoming Frosh, which to me is merit. (No additional Frosh application required?)


    RCPRS Prospective Students
    edited May 2013
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  • tugtravellertugtraveller 3 replies0 discussions
    Well, she was a top student, so "yes" she did apply to a lot of schools that were reach schools for everyone. Also, I don't believe she applied to Pomona or anywhere binding early, because they are strapped financially her parents felt they needed to be able to compare financial aid options to go with the best one. But that's the advice given here on the CC Boards all the time.

    Hey, I'm just passing on what the Mom said about her kid not getting in, and who am I to say there may or may not be something to it. I fully expected to hear her daughter would be admitted to Stanford, Yale, Reed, Oberlin or Pomona, for sure. But I didn't see her essays, her recommendations, or her interviews -- although it is hard to believe she bombed, she is a bright & talented young woman, and her GPA & test scores were tippy top. The mom is totally convinced it was because they needed the full ride. And no, like many people going through the college process for the very first time, she applied only where she REALLY wanted to go -- no state colleges (party schools), no UC's (too big & impersonal), no financial safeties (knew she would qualify for lots of FA), just small prestigious liberal arts colleges, & I think Harvard, Yale & Stanford. But she was not the only one!

    As for the term "need BLIND", I think it is mostly the ivy's and schools with very big endowments that are able to make the statement that they offer need-blind admissions & FA. So, she just flat-out didn't get into her Big-3 (HYS). You're right that financial need would not have played a role at the Ivys.

    FYI. Here is a quote from the Pomona College Financial Aid Q&A page:

    "9. Does applying for financial aid hurt my chances of admission?" "Absolutely not! Pomona is one of only a handful of institutions in the nation committed to both need-blind admissions and awarding scholarships and financial aid that meet 100% of the demonstrated need of every admitted student."

    Notice the word "handful". So, yes the Ivys and a few well-endowed schools are need-blind, but in my 3 years of reading these boards, I have learned that MOST colleges, unfortunately, cannot afford to be need blind AND award F.A. to meet 100% of demonstrated need. Don't some say clever things like they are need-blind in admissions, but leave out the part about how much help they will give you if you are admitted. Kind of like the reputation of NYU or Georgetown -- "Okay, you're accepted. Hope you can pay for it."
    edited May 2013
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 30 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    bluebayou wrote:
    It's a small amount over four years, but the bulk of the Scholars are incoming Frosh, which to me is merit.
    It sounds like the money is intended for research -related activities and is a fund they can get money from rather than a scholarship that is handed to them or a reduction in tuition.
    Students admitted as freshman have access to up to $8,000 to support research and related activities as long as they are full-time enrolled undergraduates at Cornell. Upperclass-admitted students have access to $5,000.
    edited May 2013
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  • BobWallaceBobWallace 64 replies2 discussions New Member
    Tugtraveller, your friend's story just doesn't hold up. Even need aware schools are usually only applying the need assessment to the wait list or the bottom of the applicant pool, not to students like the one you describe.

    High scores and good grades are not enough for admission to those super-elite schools - she probably was found lacking in other areas like ECs, essay, recommendations, etc. Even Pomona is very much a crap shoot even for elite students - the admit rate for women is only 12%.
    edited May 2013
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  • Sue22Sue22 31 replies2 discussions New Member
    Bluebayou-
    The CPRS is the kind of research fund to which I made reference. It cannot be used to pay for tuition, annual R&B or the other types of expenses for which one could normally use a merit award, so the real monetary advantage is that participants don't have to find a summer job or worry about finding grants to fund their student research. Many schools have similar funds available to students, they're just not guaranteed up front. To my mind they're very different from merit scholarships because they don't reduce a student's EFC.

    Research Support Account
    Students admitted as freshman have access to up to $8,000 to support research and related activities as long as they are full-time enrolled undergraduates at Cornell. Upperclass-admitted students have access to $5,000. Students who plan and budget well can receive wages, purchase necessary supplies, receive a living expense grant for at least one summer of research, as well as attend at least one conference.

    and

    Expected Savings Replacements (ESRs)
    Students who engage in full-time, program-supported research over the summer are able to apply for a one-time Expected Savings Replacement, or “ESR.” The purpose of the ESR is to replace income that students were not able to save because they were completing an unpaid summer of research. Limited ESRs are available.
    edited May 2013
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  • redpointredpoint 40 replies0 discussions New Member
    "The mom is totally convinced it was because they needed the full ride. And no, like many people going through the college process for the very first time, she applied only where she REALLY wanted to go -- no state colleges (party schools), no UC's (too big & impersonal), no financial safeties (knew she would qualify for lots of FA), just small prestigious liberal arts colleges, & I think Harvard, Yale & Stanford. But she was not the only one!"

    This was obviously a bad strategy. She needed to apply to a few schools where she was in the top 75% or more, not average. That's the way to get a full ride.
    edited May 2013
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