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College Financial Aid Isn't Going to the Neediest

ARobotARobot Posts: 5 Harvard Champion
Interesting Business Week article about need vs. merit aid. Be sure to check the interactive graphic.

Kudos to Amherst who serves the highest proportion of low-income students with near zero EFC.
Post edited by ARobot on
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Replies to: College Financial Aid Isn't Going to the Neediest

  • Wolverine86Wolverine86 Posts: 3
    edited May 2013
    Sorry, I guess I don't see what's interesting about the article. The author wants schools to give preference to giving money to poor students simply because they're poor, to the detriment of giving merit money to students (of any financial situation) because their academic performance warrants it?

    As often happens, the term "Financial Aid" is used to lump together need-based aid and merit scholarships and it gets misused and misunderstood. Financial Aid (need based aid) is going to exactly the students it should go to...those from lower income families. Merit based scholarships are going to exactly the students it should go to...those that performed at high academic levels regardless of their family's financial situation.

    Lower income students who are high achievers have access to the same merit scholarship money as anyone else. A university strives to achieve the almighty "diversity" label while trying to balance that with attracting high-achieving HS scholars of ALL socio-economic levels, thus the 2 "pools" of money; FA and merit.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 216
    edited May 2013
    many don't seem to understand that outside of the top 30-50 schools, if aid is only based on "need," then those schools have a much harder time attracting enough high stats students. When a school doesn't have a good number of high stats students, then the school suffers overall.
  • rmldadrmldad Posts: 16
    edited May 2013
    I agree with mom2collegekids and would actually reduce her estimate to Ivies and a half dozen other schools that award aid solely on need. Duke, Vanderbilt, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Notre Dame are certainly all top 30 colleges yet they recognize the need to offer merit aid.

    In addition to a campus offering "economic diversity", there is value in offering "scholarhsip diversity". Colleges want some exceptionally smart kids, or exceptional leaders, or exceptional entrepreneurs on their campus and use merit aid to attract them.

    Each school determines its own ratio for merit vs. need-based. However, while a handful have adopted exclusively need-based, I don't know any college that offers aid exclusively on merit. The scales are tipped heavily in favor of need-based (as they probably should be), but it is foolish to deride an institution for using funds to achieve their admissions goals.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Posts: 77
    edited May 2013
    Welcome to the myth of "Wahhh poor kids get to go to college for free!"

    Poor kids have always been able to tell you that it's complete and utter BS. Guess journalists are starting to catch on.
  • NewHavenCTmomNewHavenCTmom Posts: 7
    edited May 2013
    Is there a link to the article?? Thanks!
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 216
    edited May 2013
    I agree with mom2collegekids and would actually reduce her estimate to Ivies and a half dozen other schools that award aid solely on need. Duke, Vanderbilt, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Notre Dame are certainly all top 30 colleges yet they recognize the need to offer merit aid.


    I stand by my number (or close to it). Yes, the schools you list offer some merit, but the awards are few in number most likely targeted towards very hooked students who offer the school regional and/or ethnic diversity. These schools still get enough high stats kids on their own without merit awards.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    It has been euphemistically called "enrollment management" when merit money is given in order to attract the students a college most wants. It's given out to athletes, to the top scoring students, to those with a special talent, to keep a department/program going and/or to develop one, to keep extra curriculars hopping on campus, to gain diversity, keep a gender balance...the list goes on. But another category that is not often discussed, is that merit money and even financial aid are often used to attract those students that are close to full pay.

    When you look at the Common Data Sets and see that a school meets X% of need for those students who show it, those numbers can be manipulated very easily. If you have 10 students that have full need, and 10 more who come up needing less than $5-10K, by rejecting those that have the full need, and full funding those who have low need, a college has jacked up that meeting X% of need and the % of students getting full need met. Those schools that are need aware do this for a certain number of students. One had either be very hot stuff with high need or have low need to have an optimal acceptance chance. But for the pool of students that are accepted at schools that do not guarantee to meet full need, and do not as a rule, those with a small amount of need can become full funded a lot easier and less expensively than those who need a lot of money. Very simple math shows that clearly. So instead of not meeting the need of the 9 students who have, say, $5K of need, the school meets it, maybe even generously, and the tenth student who has $50K of need can get the same $5K award, and too bad if he decides not to come there. It stretches the money further. Better to lose the $50K need student than the $5K need ones. A lot of possibiiities in enrollment management, but you get the idea.

    The other way that financial aid is going to those who already have money, are the student loans. Those loans are great for the middle and upper income families who have cash flow issue and who have not saved, to start biting the bullet, cutting back on life style expenses and paying the college costs in future mode by stretching payments over as long as 25 years ahead. For those who are already financially pressed, the loans are a disaster. Not qualifying for them is a long term blessing as many families are in default for amounts that it takes no math or financial wizard to see that they will never be able to pay those amounts. People with more are losing their homes for less, and there are no homes to lose in these scenarios. Instead the credit reports are being trashed for both student and parents of some of the cosigned deals, hampering the students' ability to get jobs that depend on a thorough background check.

    Duke, for one, offers so little in merit money and it is in the form of big fat awards to those they most want, but counting on getting merit from there is truly wishful thinking and lottery odds. Since they meet full need as they define it and among the schools that use the institutional figures, their definition is pretty generous, I feel that those schools with need blind admissions policy and meet full need, often give an extra quarter to those who are challenged by severe financial needs at home.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Posts: 48
    edited May 2013
    College Financial Aid Isn't Going to the Neediest - Businessweek

    I have to wonder how some of the schools with low endowments and high pell make it work.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    Loans. They direct the eager little "oysters' to loans. Read "The Walrus and the Carpenter". I feel that it is a direct analogy of what is being done in higher education in terms of those who don't have the money and are desperate to get the education.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Posts: 48
    edited May 2013
    I still have no idea why loans are considered as meeting need. That should be fixed. Maybe only allowing direct loan amounts...
  • redpointredpoint Posts: 40
    edited May 2013
    It's so infuriating to read articles that call people who don't qualify for financial aid "wealthy." Perhaps some are, but most of us are struggling too. Our kids will be just as blocked from these universities if they don't receive merit aid as the kids with less money are. No one is crying for us, and they shouldn't, but don't call us wealthy, and don't suggest that it's immoral to help us out also.
  • MomzieMomzie Posts: 4
    edited May 2013
    You mean you don't have a yacht, redpoint? You don't sit on it sipping champagne that your servants brought you?

    I find it hysterical the way that word wealthy gets thrown around! Colleges also consider us "wealthy" -- which I guess explains why I am driving a ten year old minivan that we bought used; using an un-smart phone and shopping at Target.

    I think that using only the two words -- wealthy and poor -- reduces every argument to a level of simplicity that precludes having any meaningful conversation on the topic.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    One thing that should be done in categorizing incomes is that those who have college aged kids should be put into its own category rather than including the elderly crowd and the young, straight out of school crowd who don't have kids that age. But even then, many who are high income..yes, if you make 6 figures, whereever you might live, you are high income. It doesn't feel like it, but if you move to an area where the per capita income is far less, you'd be the paja for sure. It's just that when you are among those who make as much or more than you do, it's easy to lose perspective.
  • mccruzmccruz Posts: 2 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    I think the only families that aren't getting the financial aid they need are the "middle class" families- whatever is left of the middle class anyways.

    Its a shame for them but that is why there are state schools I guess.

    I am a low income student who can't really make any complaints about the financial aid offer the school I am going to next year offered me.
  • northwestynorthwesty Posts: 5 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    Full freight private college is $55k per year these days.

    50th percentile pretax family income in the U.S. is $42k a year. 95th percentile is $200k. Neither of those families could possibly pay full freight.

    Merit aid is simply a way to knock the sticker price down from the stratosphere so that someone other than a hedge fund manager could consider sending their kid to a private college. Those families are still paying $25-45k after merit aid.

    College is expensive for the bottom 99.5% of families. All those families need to be smart shoppers and figure out where their kid can get a good deal. Harvard (if the kid can get in) is free for the family making 50th percentile but full price for the family making 95th percentile. The 95th percentile family will get a better deal passing on Harvard and taking a merit aid offer at a slightly lower ranked school.

    Nothing wrong with that. Every school redistributes tuition money from some students to others. Families are free to pick a school where their kid will be on the receiving end. Or the paying end. There's a market, like there is for most things we pay for.
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