If you require need-based financial, you should hunt for schools that are generous with their aid packages.
If money is an issue, students should be aiming for schools that will meet a higher percentage of their financial need. One site where you can gather this information for individual institutions is at the College Board.
I’m using Santa Clara University in California as an example. I picked Santa Clara U. because it happens to be on the federal government’s hall of shame list. It is in the top 5% of four-year schools with the highest net price (cost minus typical scholarships).
Santa Clara University
On the College Board home page, type in the name of any school and its profile page will show up. To access the school’s financial aid statistics click on the school’s Paying link.
Cost of Attendance
Once you click on that link, you will see the school’s sticker price. What I find curious about Santa Clara’s numbers is that it doesn’t include some of the expenses college students will incur such as transportation and books.
Also curious is that the school didn’t include any room and board costs for students who live off campus. The cost to rent an apartment in the Silicon Valley will be high. I can only assume that the university wants to appear less expensive than it is.
Financial Aid by the Numbers
While you’re on a college’s cost page, look up at the top and click on the Financial Aid By the Numbers link. This is where the numbers start getting interesting.
Here is what I see next for Santa Clara U.:
Sadly, this Jesuit university, like many Catholic universities that I have researched, meet a low percentage of need for its students. It typically meets 73% of need and that figure will usually include a loan. The closer this number is to 100%, the better the deal for a student. At nearby Stanford University, which is admittedly a much richer school, the average students do get 100% of their need met.
A middle-class or poor student who receives such low financial support would graduate with a ton of debt. I would not recommend this school to someone who needs a lot of financial help.
By the way, I don’t put much stock in the pie charts that I see on the College Board; they often seem out of whack with the numbers. Also, I’ve put an “x” by the other statistic which I find to be wrong for all schools. This is a College Board glitch that I believe surfaced when the organization redesigned its website last year.
More Financial Aid Statistics
In the chart below you’ll find what percentage of students applied for aid (67%) and how many were judged to have need (78%). Ideally all the students who need help will receive it, but that’s not the case at Santa Clara. Seventy eight percent of those who applied for aid were judged to qualify for help, but only 67% of students received any.
What is really important, and illuminating, is what percentage of students had their full need met. At this school, the figure is 24%.
On the right hand side, you’ll see that Santa Clara’s average need-based scholarship or grant is $19,450, which is low for a school that costs more than $52,000. For families that won’t qualify for need-based aid, however, the average merit scholarship (non-need-based aid) is $10,357.
The average indebtedness of a student who borrows at Santa Clara U. ($28,672) isn’t much above the average of $26,000 or so. I’m not sure what to make of this. The figure could be wrong. I see a lot of figures on the College Board that look strange. Or many of the students at this school are wealthy enough that they don’t have to borrow heavily.
Often I see the average indebtedness figure left blank at schools with lousy financial aid. Unlike Santa Clara, some schools with dreadful financial aid such as New York University, Pratt Institute and Drexel University don’t have ANY financial aid data on the College Board site. Shame on them!
In my next post, I will return to the College Board and show you statistics of a school that is generous with its students.