Today’s New York Times has a fascinating, important article on how all but the most selective colleges entice students to apply and attend: with a huge assortment of financial help based on grades, NOT family income, which determines the more traditional “need-based financial aid.”
Paying for college is one of the most daunting issues for the majority of families. With tuition plus room and board often approaching $75,000 A YEAR for many private colleges, today’s families face bewildering choices.
Ivy League and other highly selective colleges and universities (ie University of Chicago, MIT, Tufts) offer need-based financial aid, “need” referring to the family’s income and resources. Check each college’s NET PRICE CALCULATOR (Google name of college + “net price calculator”) to get a sense of the aid that would be available to your family. These colleges are in such demand that they do not offer “merit aid,” which is aid based on a student’s good grades or profile.
By contrast, state universities and less selective colleges are now offering merit aid worth large sums of money as enticements for students to apply and attend. Today’s NYT article is an overview of the subject, not a guide. In the same way that a student excelling at sports has been an added bonus for college admission, this new trend toward merit aid for good grades is becoming a similar enticement.
The key is getting your student on board with this program early enough in his/her/their college career to make a difference. The article is a great starting point. Here are a few paragraphs from the middle that get to the heart of the issue, with a link to the rest at the end:
“It started innocently enough, with private colleges seeking a bit more prestige a few decades ago. They hoped extra money for high-achieving students might attract others who wouldn’t need inducements.
“Instead, a full-on arms race broke out, slowly, and then seemingly all at once. If one school started offering a discount, similar colleges vying for the same kids had to do the same.
“A few savvy families began to realize that they could ask for a better deal — and reject offers from schools that would not play along. And so on, up the food chain, until tonier brands like Oberlin and Connecticut College had to hold their noses and enter the game too.
“Students with straight-A averages were surprised to find themselves the subject of occasional outright bidding wars.” READ THE REST