Catholic Universities and Yet Another Botched College List

I’ve been writing posts for my college blog recently about the W-R-O-N-G way to assemble a college list. If you missed them, here are my the posts:

Another Dreadful College List

Applying to the Wrong Universities

Assembling a solid list of schools to apply to is critically important, but I’d argue that the vast majority of teenagers do a lousy job of it. I wanted to provide one more example of how students can easily blow it.

My latest example comes from a teenager  in my hometown of St. Louis, whom I have been giving college advice. Tyrone is a smart and athletic student, who would be the first in his family to attend college. I have recommended that he apply to some liberal arts colleges in the Midwest that typically offer very good to excellent financial aid because he and his mom need a lot of help.

Two nights  ago, Tyrone surprised me by telling me that he had already applied to a couple of schools, in part, because the institutions had been sending him lots of marketing material and also offered to waive his application fee. One of the schools is Ball State University. I didn’t know at the time if there is a reciprocal agreement in place with the state of the Missouri to offer lower tuition to a nonresident at this Indiana public university, but even if it did, I couldn’t imagine paying a premium price (which he can’t afford) to attend a public university.

I later checked and saw that Ball State University does participate in the Midwest Student Exchange Program, which many states in that region participate. I wrote about the four educational compacts in this post in 2010:

Cutting the Price of Out-of-State Universities

It’s my understanding that you typically have to explain when you apply to a school that participates in a compact that you would like to be considered for the cheaper compact price. Schools aren’t going to tell you about the potentially lower price and not everyone qualifies academically. Tyrone didn’t know that he was supposed to do this. Tuition and room/board for nonresidents at Ball State is $32,364!

Stingy Catholic Universities

Tyrone also applied to Rockhurst University, which is a popular Jesuit institution among Catholic St. Louisians. He met a Rockhurst admission rep at his Catholic high school and someone he knows says the university was good to him financially.  Tyrone asked about job placement after graduation — an even more important consideration for a poor teenager — and was told it was 97%. (I’m not going to get into the misleading ways that colleges and universities routinely pump up their employment rates figures today.)

I have never been impressed, however, with the financial aid practices at the vast majority of Catholic universities, including those operated by the Jesuits. And that pains me to say that because my dad and brothers attended Jesuit schools. On background, I once asked a plugged-in industry consultant about the miserliness of Catholic universities. He suggested that many Catholic universities have been able to get away with offering mediocre aid packages to low-income and middle-income students because  families are used to sacrificing to put their children through Catholic schools beginning in grade school. I certainly witnessed this sacrificing with my own parents, who were good Catholics.

Notre Dame and Georgetown Universities

Georgetown University and University of Notre Dame represent exceptions to this rule. These arguably best-known Catholic universities have much better aid practices but they don’t accept many poor students. Only 8% of Notre Dame’s students and 10% of Georgetown’s students receive a Pell Grant, which is the measure used to assess the number of low-income students at a school. That’s shameful! Notre Dame landed on the list of the nation’s wealthiest schools that accepted the smallest percentage  of poor students. Here is the link to the story I wrote about that finding:

The Nation’s 15 Richest and Stingiest Colleges

While I was explaining the hazards of applying to Catholic universities when financial aid is critical, Tyrone asked about St. Louis University. I told him to not even consider applying to this school! SLU only typically meets 71% of a typical family’s financial need, which is quite low. In fact, SLU is on the federal list of the 5% of private colleges and universities with the highest net price!

Tomorrow I’ll share with you how you can find the other schools on this federal list.

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5 Responses to Catholic Universities and Yet Another Botched College List

  1. Julia January 18, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Loyola Chicago gave our son a very attractive (about 40%) merit package that nearly matched UC prices. One of his friends also got a 1/2 merit scholarship to Santa Clara Univ. Seems that some of the Jesuit schools provide good offers if the student is in the upper part of their applicant pool.

  2. Susan January 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Loyola University in Baltimore, MD is a Jesuit university that gives out excellent aid packages

  3. Paula January 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Lynn, I agree that a school’s financial aid policies and stats should be factored into the college list building process. The problem is that oftentimes the kids with a lot of need are NOT the top students in GPA or test scores, nor are they legacies or minorities. To get the great aid package, i.e., get all or most of your “need” met, first you have to get in, and there’s the rub.

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