Creating a list of potential colleges that are a good financial fit isn’t just a math exercise, it also requires some understanding of vocabulary. From loan types to policies around aid based on need or merit, the world of college financial aid has a jargon of its own.
Here’s a guide to help you understand financial aid terms as they relate to college financial aid policies and need-based aid, plus 75 schools that meet this criteria. To learn more about those schools, check out Money’s 2019 Best Colleges ranking.
What does it mean to satisfy the complete need?
Colleges that “meet all the needs” will offer admitted students enough financial aid to cover the difference between the price of college attendance and a family’s ability to pay. The amount a family should be able to pay is determined by financial aid formulas. There is the federal formula, which calculates an “estimated family contribution” based on the information reported on the FAFSA. But most colleges with generous financial aid also require a second financial aid form, the CSS Profile, and use it to guide their institutional financial aid formula. In other words, your family’s “demonstrated financial need” may fluctuate, depending on how each college counts your family’s income and assets.
So, for example, if the financial aid formula says your family can pay $18,000 a year and a college charges $65,000, then an all-needs school will make sure the remaining $47,000 is covered through a combination of funds. federal, state and institutional aid.
Most colleges that promise to meet all needs will start with federal student loans and work study, and fill the rest with scholarships, says Matthew Malatesta, vice president of admissions, financial aid and enrollment at Union College in Schenectady, NY.
A key detail to reinforce here: you don’t determine how needy you are. The FAFSA or the college’s use of the CSS profile does. Even if you think your expected contribution is too high, that’s the number colleges will use to determine your financial need.
Among colleges that meet all needs, your out-of-pocket costs can vary widely. Some colleges take the promise a step further and meet the needs without requiring students or their parents to take out loans. These “no loan” colleges offer financial aid packages with just work, study, scholarships, or grants. Other colleges may say they meet all your needs, but don’t add required student fees to your cost of attendance. And just because a college says it meets all needs doesn’t mean it actually accepts many needy students.
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What are blind and needs-aware universities?
Colleges that are “need-blind” admit students without regard to financial need, while colleges that are “need-aware” or “need-sensitive” may consider applicants’ ability to pay when admitting them. .
However, the terms are somewhat misleading. For one thing, these cases only apply to a minority of colleges, those that are selective enough to reject many qualified applicants. And there are many ways a “need-blind” college can infer an applicant’s financial background without reviewing their financial aid materials. Details such as parental occupation, home ZIP code, or school district can indicate a family’s socioeconomic status.
There are also very few universities, about two dozen, that are rich enough to be really blind to needs and at the same time cater to all needs.
“Everyone else [has] to make sure they don’t spend more than the budget allows,” says Malatesta.
That means the other colleges that describe themselves as need-blind may either have “gap” students or admit them even though there will be a gap between what the college can provide in financial aid and what the family can afford. .
Other colleges are blind to need but attract such a rich crop of students that they still meet their financial aid budget, Malatesta says.
Needs-conscious colleges, on the other hand, may only pay attention to ability to pay in certain cases. At Union College, for example, if a student is at the top of the admissions profile, he will get in regardless of her level of financial need, Malatesta says.
But for a fringe student, the college might have to look at how much the student can afford and what the college has left in its financial aid budget. Union promises to meet every need, and so for every student admitted, the college needs to make sure it has the money to make it affordable, she says.
If you’re trying to better understand the policy of a college you’re interested in applying to, first check its financial aid or admissions website. Some colleges, like Vassar College, are quite transparent in describing their financial aid practices. If there are no details about the school’s policy online, you can ask during tours or by emailing the financial aid office. Try questions like, What percentage of the need does it usually satisfy? Y What is the expected overall loan for the first year within the financial aid packages?
Universities that meet 100% of financial need
These colleges reported meeting 100% of the need for full-time students, with financial aid packages that exclude private loans, federal unsubsidized loans, or parent PLUS loans. Data is self-reported and published by Peterson’s.
*These 11 colleges report meeting 100% of financial need for freshmen, but not all college students. Many of these colleges still account for more than 90% of college students’ financial need.