If your family will need to depend on financial aid to attend college, your best bet is to find a school that will offer an excellent financial aid package to your child.
A great way to assess the generosity of any school is to look at the percentage of financial need it typically meets for its students.
Teenagers, who earn acceptances into schools that meets 100% of need, essentially win the educational equivalent of the lottery.
Colleges and Universities That Meet 100% of Need
To make the search easier, here are the schools that I know of that meet 100% of financial need for all or most of its students. If you are aware of others, please let me know.
Also on the list I included schools, which I boldfaced, that meet at least 93% of need for the majority of its students.
- Amherst College (MA)
- Austin College (TX) 95%
- Babson College (MA) 98%
- Barnard College (NY)
- Bates College (ME)
- Beloit College (WI) 95%
- Bentley University (MA) 94%
- Boston College (MA)
- Boston University (MA) 93%
- Brandeis University (MA) 95%
- Brown University (RI)
- Bryn Mawr College (PA)
- Bowdoin College (ME
- California Institute of Technology
- Carleton College (MN)
- Claremont McKenna College (CA)
- Clark University (MA) 93%
- Colby College (ME)
- Colgate University (NY)
- College of the Holy Cross (MA)
- College of Wooster (OH) 95%
- Colorado College (CO)
- Columbia University (NY)
- Connecticut College (CT)
- Cornell University (NY)
- Davidson College (NC)
- Dickinson College (PA) 99%
- Duke University (NC)
- Dartmouth College (NH)
- Emory University (GA)
- Franklin and Marshall College (PA)
- Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
- Georgetown University (DC)
- Grinnell College (IA)
- Hamilton College (NY)
- Harvey Mudd College (CA)
- Haverford College (PA)
- Harvard University (MA)
- Johns Hopkins University (MD)
- Kalamazoo College (MI) 94%
- Kenyon College (OH)
- Lafayette College (PA)
- Lawrence University (WI) 97%
- Lehigh University (PA) 95%
- Macalester College (MN)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
- Middlebury College (VT)
- Mount Holyoke College (MA)
- Northwestern University (IL)
- Oberlin College (OH)
- Occidental College (CA)
- Pitzer College (CA)
- Pomona College (CA)
- Princeton University (NJ)
- Reed College (OR)
- Rhodes College (TN) 93%
- Rice University (TX)
- Saint John’s College (NM) 93%
- Saint Olaf College (MN) 99%
- Scripps College (CA)
- Smith College (MA)
- Soka University of America (CA)
- Stanford University (CA)
- Swarthmore College (PA)
- Syracuse University (NY) 96%
- Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
- Trinity College (CT)
- Trinity University (TX) 98%
- Tufts University (MA)
- Tulane University (LA) 96%
- Union College (NY)
- University of Chicago (IL)
- University of Notre Dame (IN)
- University of Pennsylvania (PA)
- University of Richmond (VA)
- University of Rochester (NY) 97%
- University of Southern California
- University of Virginia
- Vanderbilt University (TN)
- Vassar College (NY)
- Wabash College (IN) 93%
- Wake Forest University (NC)
- Washington and Lee University (VA)
- Washington University, St. Louis, (MO)
- Wellesley College (MA)
- Wesleyan University (CT)
- Whitman College (WA) 96%
- Williams College (MA)
- Yale University (CT)
What you’ll notice about the above list is that many of the schools are highly selective. Many of these schools can provide 100% of need because they are wealthier with bigger endowments than their peers, but also because the majority of students who attend these schools are typically high income.
With the wealthy children paying the sticker price or getting a modest merit scholarship, this generates more money for financial aid.
How Percentage of Need Met Works…
Let’s say the financial aid formula says your family can afford to pay $15,000 for one year of college. (That’s represented by your Expected Family Contribution.) Your child is lucky and gets into a $60,000 school that promises to meet 100% of its students’ financial need. That means the school will provide $45,000 in aid.
Schools will look for outside help first to build that $45,000 package. If the child qualifies for the federal Pell Grant for low-income students and an applicable state grant, that will be put into the package first. Nearly all schools also put in a federal Direct Loan, which for freshman is $5,500. After that the school would kick in its own institutional money.
In this case, let’s assume the child doesn’t qualify for any state of federal grants at a school that meets 100% of need.
$60,000 Cost of Attendance
Minus $15,000 Expected Family Contribution
After the Direct Loan is subtracted, the family would get nearly $40,000 in grants/scholarships (free money) to attend this school. Some of the most elite schools won’t put in a Direct Loan.
In contrast, the majority of schools in this country would “gap” a child. A school might provide $10,000 or $15,000 or $30,000 or even $0 dollars to meet this child’s need.
The Cynical Side of Meeting Need
It’s important to understand that the institutions self report these figures. A school’s generosity will depend heavily on the institutional financial aid formula that it uses.
Nearly all the schools on this list use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is a financial aid application created by the College Board.
In addition to the standard questions on the PROFILE, the application allows colleges to pick from hundreds of optional questions that are designed to measure the financial ability of families to pay for college.
For instance, Boston College says it meets 100% of a student’s financial need, but its aid formula calculates the full value of a family’s home equity. (Not a good thing!)
Many schools haven’t adopted such a harsh stance against home equity. Boston College also takes a much closer look at other aspects of a family’s finances than some of the other schools.
Consequently, even schools that are similarly priced could offer significantly different packages. For example, the average need-based aid package for Boston College students is $35,519. Compare that to Amherst College’s average aid package of $51,513.
Not Everyone Gets 100% of Need Met
Ideally, a student will get accepted into a school that meets 100% of need for 100% of students, who are eligible for financial aid. You can only count on this happening, however, at the most elite schools that enjoy the best college rankings.
There are schools on this list where far fewer students get their full financial need met. At Brandeis University, for instance, 75% of students had their full need met while students at Bentley University and had just 41% of their full need met. Some schools have even lower figures.
The No. 1 way to cut the cost of college is to become an educated consumer. You can learn how by attending my popular online course, The College Cost Lab. I’ll be relaunching the course in September and if you’d like to be notified when I have more details, please click here!