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Merit Scholarships and Financial Aid


Hunter's Moon
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If a school offers a student a merit scholarship, will they factor that merit scholarship into the financial aid award?

 

For example, say the school costs $40,000/year. The student gets $15,000 in merit aid from the school. Now say the students EFC is $10,000. Would the school say the student needs $30,000 in financial aid (cost - EFC) or $15,000 in financial aid (cost - scholarship - EFC)? Does it depend on the school?

 

I understand that most schools will subtract outside scholarships from how much financial need the student needs, but if the aid is from the school, won't they figure out how much they'll give the student in need-based aid and then cover the gap with the merit scholarship and use the leftover merit scholarship to take away loans?

 

Thanks.

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For MOST schools (there's bound to be an exception somewhere), when they give merit aid, it comes off the price of the school, so in your case, it would be $40,000 - $15,000 or now $25,000 you'd have to come up with.

 

Then, if the school also offers need based aid (or you qualify for Pell or whatever), then you take the $25,000 - $10,000 (EFC) or $15,000 and that's what you can get while still getting Federal Aid (including Pell Grants and Subsidized loans).

 

If you manage to garner enough money from outside scholarships or anywhere (except you and your parents) to get that figure less than $10,000 (your EFC), then you lose the ability to get Federal Aid ($1 for $1). A college could give you the whole $40,000 if they wanted (few do except for full ride merit packages), but you can't get Federal Aid if you've otherwise gotten more than $30,000 in your example.

 

Colleges that "meet need" will meet $30,000 total - merit and need combined in this case (assuming they agree with the $10,000 EFC - some have their own forms or use the CSS Profile to come up with another figure).

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So how about this example then (since my EFC is nowhere near $10,000).

 

The school is $40,000/year. The school offered $14,500 in merit aid scholarships. The EFC is ~$1,000. The school covers about 75% of financial need.

 

But you won't know what they'll cover for you until you apply, get accepted, and get your financial package. The 75% is just an average. IF they really want a student, that often can go to 100% of need (all but $1000 for you). If they don't care so much, it could be fairly low - a token. A bit of that will depend upon who they want to fill their class - getting diversity in gender, race, geography, various sports, instruments, whatever. There is no "set" guarantee for who gets what in aid like this. The same student could get offered differing amounts if they applied in different years solely based upon the "competition" that year.

 

But, based upon the average, you'd need to come up with an additional $6125 (above the $1000). This could come from outside scholarships (pending the school's policy - some will allow it, others won't - the Federal Gov't would be ok with it for federal aid).

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I'm just trying to figure out if the school will consider the $14,500 scholarship as part of meeting the need and they only meet about 75%.

 

In this situation, if a school says they meet 75% of need, will they give $30,000 in need-based aid (75% of $40,000) or will they give $19,125 in need-based aid (75% of $25,500 which is $40,000 - $14,500 scholarship)? I know that all this varies by college, student, etc. but theoretically I am trying to understand the process.

 

Sorry if my question isn't making sense, I am having a hard time wording it.

 

Thanks.

Edited by BeatleMania
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But you won't know what they'll cover for you until you apply, get accepted, and get your financial package. The 75% is just an average. IF they really want a student, that often can go to 100% of need (all but $1000 for you). If they don't care so much, it could be fairly low - a token. A bit of that will depend upon who they want to fill their class - getting diversity in gender, race, geography, various sports, instruments, whatever. There is no "set" guarantee for who gets what in aid like this. The same student could get offered differing amounts if they applied in different years solely based upon the "competition" that year.

 

But, based upon the average, you'd need to come up with an additional $6125 (above the $1000). This could come from outside scholarships (pending the school's policy - some will allow it, others won't - the Federal Gov't would be ok with it for federal aid).

 

I understand the average means some students receive more aid and others less. So, you're saying they will subtract the merit scholarship + EFC from the total cost and then meet 75% of that (on average). Thanks, that is what I was trying to understand.

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I understand the average means some students receive more aid and others less. So, you're saying they will subtract the merit scholarship + EFC from the total cost and then meet 75% of that (on average). Thanks, that is what I was trying to understand.

 

This is what they are supposed to do if the merit aid was truly merit aid with no need component to it. Some schools give out merit aid based upon need (but still call it merit aid), so it can be school specific.

 

You're need as far as the Federal Gov't is concerned is $39000 and they don't care where it comes from (some can come from them). They only care that the $1000 comes from you or your parents.

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This is what they are supposed to do if the merit aid was truly merit aid with no need component to it. Some schools give out merit aid based upon need (but still call it merit aid), so it can be school specific.

 

You're need as far as the Federal Gov't is concerned is $39000 and they don't care where it comes from (some can come from them). They only care that the $1000 comes from you or your parents.

 

It is only merit based because it was offered before the FAFSA was received.

 

Thanks, I appreciate the help.

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and it all seems very random. My dd's, who will be going to a 100% needs met school, package came in at about $2000 over our efc (they used the CSS profile, so it obviously figures differently) and there are still student loans on top of that. No merit aid separated out, it is all needs-met aid.

 

The boys didn't get packages anywhere close to the cost of her school, their costs are about double our efc, not including loans, which in one case was originally 9.5K/yr (4K perkins on top of the stafford). Some schools came in much higher.

 

Outside scholarships will be at the mercy of the school - they all have their own policy on how to deal with them. My one son who did win a few, the school's policy was to take it first off the Perkins loan, which was fine w/ us. But we were careful not to let him apply to too much, because the next hit would have been to his work study allotment, and he will need that job for spending money, and after that it would have come off of his grant. My dd didn't even apply for any scholarships, as it would never have lowered the amt we have to pay, it would have come off of the aid they offered us.

 

Another thing to remember is that the amt you are offered could change from year to year depending on your income, and your the income of your student. One of my sons will probably bring in close to $5K from a summer job and we know the school will automatically want half of it next year. Since he was charged w/ raising $3K a year (the cost of his school was that much higher than what we figured we could pay) he will not have achieved that goal this summer.

 

Also, since these are my only kids, I am now looking for a full time job, which will hopefully double my salary. But I have no idea if we will be able to keep ANY of that money, or if we will lose enough aid to make it a wash (I live in complete fear that the schools will want more money than the additional I earn), As covering these tuitions will be a real stretch for us to begin with, this is the most depressing part.

 

The thing is that you have absolutely no way of knowing.

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In reality I spent MANY HOURS of researching on how to place my kids correctly, showcase them appropriately and show genuine interest. They only applied to schools where they were in the 75% or above in order to get merit aid. Unfortunately, the reality is that very FEW kids will get into needs met schools, and MOST will be paying more than their efc. We were very lucky to have one very smart, well-testing, unique and full of demonstrable passion child who came across as the right match for a particular needs met school. The other two weren't those kids. And then when you also match up your other needs - such as specific majors, geographical area, etc. it's not going to happen for everybody, or even most kids.

 

In fact one of my sons is going to our in state U, a very good school but not cheap, even for state kids (over $27K in-state tuition retail) It was his cheapest acceptable option.

 

I just wanted to point out that no amount of research is going to guarantee efc only results unless your child is a NMS. And even free tuition can cost you an arm and a leg at some schools that will offer it, if you happen to live on the other side of the country.

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Just remember that the cheapest option is not always the best option - esp in a poor economy. I see MANY students choosing the cheapest option available (many times this starts with cc, then a cheap 4 year), then they graduate with a degree, but in a competitive economy, they find employers want graduates of schools known for having a good program in that major - not just "a" degree.

 

This doesn't mean everyone needs Ivy or any particular school. Schools that are good depend upon the major and location (many employers have their favorite schools). It does mean that, in the end, some debt could have been a good investment if one wants a job connected to their major.

 

No debt and degree few respect is not better than some debt and a degree employers look for.

 

A few years back, when the economy was sailing, it didn't matter so much. Once you've had a job and have work experience, where your degree came from won't matter, but for new hires in an economy where there can be 10 (or more) applicants per job, it sure helps to be shuffled into the interview pile vs put on the bottom based upon a respected degree.

 

To find a good school, see where RECENT grads in your major have gone on to work or ask CURRENT employers where they like to hire from.

 

Stepping off my soapbox, but I really dislike all this "get school for nothing" stuff that is going around nationally when I SEE the results of some of these choices. It's better than all those "take on oodles of debt" for the for-profit school choices where few grads get jobs, but it's not better than an informed decision based upon odds of being hired and the difference in the salary between the job you want and the job you may have to take.

 

Should note: If you find people regularly getting hired in jobs you want from a "free" school, go for it!

 

Should note #2: I never recommend sky high debt.

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Just remember that the cheapest option is not always the best option - esp in a poor economy.

 

:iagree: Well said, Creekland.

 

The money issue is huge. And since money trees are hard to find, we do need to find a route for our kids that works for our pocketbooks. But that doesn't always mean community college.

 

Merit aid can mean that four years at a highly-ranked private college is cheaper than two years at a community college and two years at a state U.

 

And, like Creekland said, we want to give our kids an education they can USE, and that may not be the cheapest option.

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We went through this.

 

Short answer:

Schools use the merit award to cover the gap between the total cost of the school and the expected family contribution (EFC). They do not use the merit award to reduce the expected family contribution and then use financial aid to close the gap between the EFC and the total cost.

 

Long answer:

An example: if your EFC is $25,000, not ALL schools will guarantee that you are NOT going to pay more than the $25K. Not all schools meet 100% of need. You can look on the College Board site under the financial page. Some schools say they meet 100% of need. MOST do not.

 

No guarantees, but this is an example of how things work in general:

 

Scenario # 1: School meets 100% of need

- Cost of Attendance (Tuition, Room, Board, Etc) = $ 50,000

- Merit Award = $ 20,000

- EFC = $ 25,000

- School offers an additional $ 5,000 in Financial Aid

The merit award does NOT reduce the EFC.

 

Scenario # 2: School meets 100% of need

- Cost of Attendance (Tuition, Room, Board, Etc) = $ 50,000

- Merit Award = $ 35,000

- EFC = $ 25,000, BUT there is only $ 15,000 left to pay. The student may be offered a federal loan for $ 5,500. The parents would be expected to pay/borrow $ 9,500.

 

Scenario # 3: School doesn't promise to meet 100% of need:

- Cost of Attendance (Tuition, Room, Board, Etc) = $ 50,000

- Merit Award = $ 10,000

- EFC = $ 25,000

- There is still a gap. In this case the family's EFC is $ 25K; apparently that's what the parents can afford. The school would still expect the parents to ante up $ 40,000 regardless of their EFC.

 

So why earn the merit award?

If you attend a school that promises to meet 100% of need, the merit award does you no good UNLESS your merit award reduces the cost of the school to the point that it is less than your EFC. If the merit award is less than the difference between the cost of the school and your family's EFC, then you would have received the money from the school in the form of financial aid even if your kid has no "merit" ;). AND your kid wouldn't have the pressure of trying to keep that scholarship. If the kid loses the merit "scholarship", the school is going to ante up the $$ in the form of financial aid anyway. YUP. I asked this question. That's the answer. The answer was given with a TON of hesitation on the part of the financial aid advisor. A TON! So I asked the next obvious question, "Why bother to give merit aid when it's really just financial aid?" That's when the truth of it comes out. Merit aid awards at 100% schools are designed to reduce the cost of the school for kids who are in the tippy top financial brackets. That money helps lure kids whose parents would qualify for no financial breaks on the full-priced ticket. I suspect they additionally offer it to kids who would receive the $$ in the form of financial aid anyway as an incentive to make them feel special (so they seriously consider the college - merit scholarships are usually offered before the full financial aid award shows up in the mailbox). After the kids start attending, the merit-carrot encourages kids to work hard and earn good grades.

 

And here's the rub: this is probably part of the reason things are scheduled the way they are. Most 100% schools require the very invasive college-board financial form in advance of the final admission decision. If there is a healthy gap between the cost of the school and your EFC and your student is a border-line student for the school (not in the top 25%), it is likely your student is going to be denied admissions or wait-listed. If the school has a lot of kids to choose from, they are going to attempt to fill their academically-mediocre slots with kids who have parents with an EFC that is close to or exceeds the cost of attendance. (Of course, they are balancing a lot of objectives. They are attempting to meet a host of stats with their freshman class. Generating enough revenue from the freshman class is certainly one of their objectives.) You can't get any data on such things, but I suspect that's why you hear so many stories that seem to make little sense: two kids each with similar academic records, stats, and diversity. One is admitted, the other is denied. No one wants to talk about the money. Instead we chat about extra-curriculars and a whole host of other subjects. (Maybe the kid should have learned to play the bassoon, or maybe the kid should have done one more AP course.) In reality, I suspect the difference was a financial one. I suspect that the school was going to need to meet a larger financial gap for the one family than for the other. (Or there was going to be a larger gap coming up: that's why the financial aid forms ask questions about the age of the younger kids. The schools want to know how the EFC is going to look in the next four years. Will the EFC need to be shared with other schools in the next four years?) If the school promises to meet 100% of need, it wants to be able to keep that promise. If it can't afford to be need-blind, it accepts the student with the $$. (This notion weighs heavily against the egalitarian ideals that are so popular in our society. But I have read about this very extensively. There are plenty of books that address this issue. In the end, we all have social ideals. But even in our personal lives, our finances limit our ability to act fully on our social ideals. That's a personal reality for most folks; for colleges it's a business reality.)

 

The system promotes itself as being "need-blind", but it can't really afford to be 100% need-blind. Schools with huge endowments can afford to pretend to hold to this ideal more than schools with budget problems, but in the end they all play the game. (If schools were really need-blind, they wouldn't require any financial information until AFTER the student was admitted. Even ED students are expected to provide estimated financial data.) I suspect that every school fills its lower percentile slots with kids whose parents have $$ OR with kids that are likely to donate to the college fund in the future. Someone has to pay the bills.

 

That's why you will hear all the chatter about merit aid and financial aid. There are plenty of us here on these boards who killed ourselves (and our kids) to earn merit awards. It's quite a blow to discover that we still couldn't afford private school without a massive amount of $$ piled up somewhere. Even if the kid receives a full-tuition ride, room and board and extras exceed $10K per year.

 

Rule of thumb: Find out what your EFC will be. Figure out how many years you will be paying that: how many years will you have kids in college? (Note that your EFC is your EFC. If you have more than one kid in college at 100% schools, you split the money you spend among them. You still spend the same EFC regardless of how many kids you have in college. If your EFC is $25K and you have 25 kids in college, it will cost you $1K for each of them.) Then save that $$ for college. If you don't need it, you will be pleasantly surprised. IF you can't afford that, then start looking for cheaper alternatives. It's that simple.

 

Peace, (...Really - try to find a place of peace. It is what it is. ;))

Janice

 

Enjoy your little people

Enjoy your journey

Edited by Janice in NJ
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:iagree: Well said, Creekland.

 

The money issue is huge. And since money trees are hard to find, we do need to find a route for our kids that works for our pocketbooks. But that doesn't always mean community college.

 

Merit aid can mean that four years at a highly-ranked private college is cheaper than two years at a community college and two years at a state U.

 

And, like Creekland said, we want to give our kids an education they can USE, and that may not be the cheapest option.

 

I hear you both. But huge merit packages that bring the cost of high-ranking privates into range for folks who don't qualify for substantial need-based aid are few and far between. We're really only talking about a very small number of students. Most folks are going to have to ante up their EFC (or something close to it) or choose a cheaper school. And that can be a really tough decision for folks who are going to have to either go into massive debt or watch their kids struggle. A tough, tough fork in the road. Path diverges in the wood - and both paths look dark and sinister as far as the eye can see.

 

For example, dd has been receiving paperwork from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. Even though her PSAT scores are good, we live in the wrong state. She won't be a finalist in NJ. (The irony of this nested in this discussion doesn't escape me. Even when it comes to geography, we can't get this thing right! Yes folks, we live in the wrong state. My dd will not be a finalist because of her score; it's because of her zip code.) (Back to the ivies: that's why these schools are sending her their glossy brochures. She's on the mailing list.) I've visited the financial calculators. Even with their generous packages, we are talking major cash that our family just doesn't have. I graduated from one of these ivy schools, and no one was knocking down my door at graduation. Sure top kids from top programs are in demand, but middle of the pack kids at these great schools don't necessarily do that much better than kids who went to regular ole schools. (See Higher Education by Hacker and Dreifus; I believe this was one of the books that discussed this at length. They argue that kids who are accepted to these schools are high-achieving kids anyway. They do about the same no matter where they go; they are THAT kind of kid. In other words, they don't succeed because they went to THAT school; they succeed because of who they are.) Note: Dd has been taking honors courses through our CC. She recently asked one of her profs for a teacher recommendation. He promised to write it and told her an email that in his last ten years of tenure at the school (he's a department chairman), he would rank her in the top 1-3% of students he has seen in terms of hard work, responsibility, and academic potential. She plans to apply to only state schools; she is hoping for a scholarship. She may apply to one private for fun, but she knows that her chances of being able to afford it are very slim.

 

So chiming in - not to minimize your experiences, Gwen or Creekland. But for most folks, a high-ranking education (for kids who manage to get accepted) generally means undergrad student debt of $25K and parent expense of another $50K - $100K or more. For those of us who have several kids, that's just not an option. So we watch them struggle and try to make the best of their situation. All this talk about the "good jobs" v. "the not-so-good jobs" is a mute point when you can't afford to get to the gate. So I chime in to encourage folks with a broad range of experience to join the conversation. (I'm sure you both welcome their voices as well. :001_smile:) De-mistifying this process is one sure step to helping our kids understand the system. And it is one sure way to reduce the onset of meritocracy-syndrome. As the divide between the haves and the have-nots increases, folks on both sides of the line are going to have to come to grips with how their impressions are shaping their prejudice.

 

http://www.economist.com/node/3518560

 

See Delbanco's new book for more on what's happening among the haves. I found his discussion of meritocracy to be spot-on.

http://www.amazon.com/College-What-Was-Is-Should/dp/0691130736/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0

 

Peace,

Janice

 

A side note: Ds just spent four weeks at music camp out of state. Apparently he was the only kid at camp whose parents did not fly in (or drive) to be there for the final round of concerts. According to ds, except for the kid who hailed from Hawaii, he was the only guy whose parents didn't show up. (There may have been more, but ds said he didn't know anyone without parents for the final weekend. The shuttle to camp from the airport was PACKED. These kids are not all local kids.) Airfare, rental car, and hotel was going to run over $2K for dh and I to attend. (Not happening!) After ds played his recitals in piano and pipe organ, parents came up to him to congratulate him; they asked to meet his parents. (It was even difficult for him to BE there for his own piano recital as it conflicted with an orchestra rehearsal. He was the only kid who was double-majoring in keyboards who also played in the orchestra. BUT he was encouraged to triple up to play in the orchestra in order to be competitive for the merit scholarship for the camp... I digress.....) Anyway, the other parents praised him after his recitals and wanted to meet his parents to congratulate them as well; Ds told them all, "They couldn't come. We're too poor." Yup. That's what he told them and all of the other kids who kept asking where his parents were.

 

He was perfectly cheerful about it. He had a great time. And he wants to go back next year. But it does feel kinda weird on our end. I'm sure ds was looking around and wondering why everyone else is so "rich." The camp offers free tuition and travel awards to kids who can't afford it. But apparently the parents of those kids could afford the transportation and lodging to be there for the recitals/concerts. Ds received a private scholarship and a small merit award from the camp, but we still had to ante up some major cash for him to attend. There was certainly no money left over for us to attend. So instead, we get to feel like dud-parents. It hurts. But it's better than telling him he couldn't go at all.

 

Like I said, sometimes the path is just the path. You either walk it or not. It's not dark because of a lack of effort. Sometimes it's great effort, hard work, and an enormous amount of research coupled with wise decision-making that puts you in weird situations. Once again: this idea of meritocracy needs more discussion. It can confuse folks when it's not discussed openly and honestly. :001_smile:

Edited by Janice in NJ
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For example, dd has been receiving paperwork from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. ...I've visited the financial calculators. Even with their generous packages, we are talking major cash that our family just doesn't have. . :001_smile:

 

Lots of good and interesting points in your posts Janice. Some I agree with and some I don't, but very thoughtful...

 

I'm curious about your observation that your daughter will apply to state universities and maybe one private but you don't expect to be able to afford it the private. I'm wondering if you've only run financial calculators for Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia or if you've gone more into middle America looking at smaller name privates such as Colleges that Change Lives sorts of schools or many others that don't have a big name on the East Coast.

 

What I can say having been through this process with many students is that it really is not a lie that for many students the higher sticker priced private college may be comparable to the state university or in some cases it may be less expensive. While this will vary based on income and student profile, I would not generalize that privates will always be more expensive. Private schools can be less expensive for some students when they apply strategically considering factors such as: schools who meet a large percentage of student need, schools that provide merit aid, out of state schools that need to seek regional diversity, schools where they will be in the top 10-20% of the class, and schools that may not have a big name for students from their region or for the quality of the school.

 

Again, there are a number of individual variables to consider, but is really impossible to make a general rule that state schools will be cheaper for all students. It really depends on individual circumstances. For students who want to go private there are known strategies to increase the odds of making that affordable. The exact strategy will depend on the student profile and the family's EFC though. I think the only general rule I'm willing to make is that college is crazy expensive and that nearly ever family will gulp when they see their EFC.

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I haven't read through all the responses, but I feel compelled to write about my dd's experience. She was given very generous financial aid offers at all the private colleges where she applied. It would have cost her more to attend the local CC than it is for her to be attending her school of choice. Please don't think that you cannot afford to have a child attend a private college. If the school is a good fit, you might be surprised at how low the real cost of attendance turns out to be.

 

My ds, who does not have his sister's test scores or LOR's, is going to have a VERY difficult time being able to afford college, but his sister and I believe his best chance is to apply to some of the private colleges which claim to cover 100% of COA. (Beloit College comes up on some lists as covering 100%, but in dd's case that wasn't true.)

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Scenario # 2: School meets 100% of need

- Cost of Attendance (Tuition, Room, Board, Etc) = $ 50,000

- Merit Award = $ 35,000

- EFC = $ 25,000, BUT there is only $ 15,000 left to pay. The student may be offered a federal loan for $ 5,500. The parents would be expected to pay/borrow $ 9,500.

 

 

 

No to the bolded. If what the school is offering drops below the EFC, a student can't get federal aid of any sort UNLESS there are extenuating circumstances financially that the college has documented allowing them to lower an EFC.

 

Otherwise, if the only privates you are looking at are Ivies, they don't give merit aid at all.

 

And yes, as Barbara posted, there are several other colleges to look at where the finances can work out the same, or better, than state U. This doesn't mean it will work out, it means it can work out. For my two boys, it did work out, but we chose our applications carefully.

 

I hear you on the PSAT scores... my guy would have been NMSF in over half the states, but not ours. But even getting that won't help you get Ivy aid. My guy got mail from every single Ivy school, but applied to none. All it means is he scored high enough to get on their mailing list.

 

Then, my last point, is not all state schools are "bad" degree-wise. The best two schools for local engineer wannabes are Penn St and Va Tech. Penn St is a state related school. VT is a state school. Right now, in this economy, if you have a degree from elsewhere without work experience, I doubt you'll get an interview. Local employers like those schools and have plenty of applicants from them for the few jobs available for new graduates. In a better economy with more jobs and fewer applicants then they might consider other engineering schools.

 

What schools are "good" will depend a ton on major and location. There are generally SEVERAL to choose from, not 8 or 25 or 100. (In different locations, different engineering schools would be preferred.) They just may, or may not, correlate with "cheapest" option. Sometimes 25 - 30K in debt is worth it (not annually, but total). Whether it is or not will depend upon the individual and their specific options.

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Don't underestimate the merit aid private schools will provide.

 

My kids' cheapest options were private colleges and OOS state schools. My kids' most expensive option (except for one top-ranked university) was an in-state school.

 

PLEASE consider having your dd apply to some private colleges. Anyone who is a reasonable candidate for an Ivy should be able to get some great merit aid at a very good college.

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What I can say having been through this process with many students is that it really is not a lie that for many students the higher sticker priced private college may be comparable to the state university or in some cases it may be less expensive. While this will vary based on income and student profile, I would not generalize that privates will always be more expensive. Private schools can be less expensive for some students when they apply strategically considering factors such as: schools who meet a large percentage of student need, schools that provide merit aid, out of state schools that need to seek regional diversity, schools where they will be in the top 10-20% of the class, and schools that may not have a big name for students from their region or for the quality of the school.

 

I hear you, Barbara, but I agree with Janice completely. Our experience was much the same as hers. I wonder what state you live in?

 

We are in an unfortunate state for college applications/aid as well. We have the highest PSAT cut off to make National Merit. My sons did/will do well, but I don't have any illusions that they'll make NM, as they would need nearly perfect papers to get there.

 

Also, the folks in high cost-of-living areas (MA, NJ, CA, NYC, etc.) have the FA odds stacked against them. The FAFSA uses the same formulas nationwide, and they are largely based upon income. In high COL areas, the salaries are a bit higher, but so are the expenses, but now your EFC is higher as well. Also, if you have house, and your child's private school uses the Profile form, you've got to report your home equity, and because housing costs are higher, your equity is likely to be higher as well, which leads to an increase in what the colleges say you can pay. Also, because there tend to be a lot of kids from these areas applying to college, forget any boost you might get from geographic diversity.

 

I would never discourage anyone from applying to both private & public colleges, but I agree with Janice that what is best for a particular student is so individual to that student and his/her family, that any blanket advice is likely to be wrong. The best advice should be to thoroughly investigate the child's options given his/her grades, scores, location, and given the family's finances.

 

I just finished reading the book, "The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price" (2nd Edition) by Lynn O'Shaughnessy, and I though she did a very good job walking the reader through various scenarios. But -- the whole situation is so complicated that it took her a whole book to explain it.

 

BTW, the Kindle edition of this book is still free (as of tonight).

 

Brenda

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Don't underestimate the merit aid private schools will provide.

 

My kids' cheapest options were private colleges and OOS state schools. My kids' most expensive option (except for one top-ranked university) was an in-state school.

 

PLEASE consider having your dd apply to some private colleges. Anyone who is a reasonable candidate for an Ivy should be able to get some great merit aid at a very good college.

 

 

:iagree::iagree::iagree:

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I would chime in and say that if someone is a possible admit at an Ivy (or even a strong student but not quite that level) there is likely merit aid available for them somewhere, its a matter of finding the right fit. Certainly the honors program at my school has awarded very generous financial packages (70%-100% tuition) to students who are smart kids, but probably not Harvard material. My university is certainly not Harvard, but strong honors grads have done very well in their post-graduate pursuits.

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I hear you, Barbara, but I agree with Janice completely. Our experience was much the same as hers. I wonder what state you live in?

 

 

I work with students from around the country and yes it certainly happens that some students gets their best deal at a private college - just as Gwen described. As I said in my post there are a lot of individual factors to consider (student profile, student profile relative to applicant pool, regional advantages, cost of in-state publics, EFC, percent of need met, time it takes to earn a four year degree etc.) The thing I would discourage is for anyone to generalize from the experience of another poster to rule out whole categories of schools without doing their own research. Sometimes state schools will be less expensive, but sometimes they won't. Parents are wise to do careful research and consider a range of options.

 

And, ditto to the suggestion of the College Solution. Great book, great place to start.

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Don't underestimate the merit aid private schools will provide.

 

My kids' cheapest options were private colleges and OOS state schools. My kids' most expensive option (except for one top-ranked university) was an in-state school.

 

PLEASE consider having your dd apply to some private colleges. Anyone who is a reasonable candidate for an Ivy should be able to get some great merit aid at a very good college.

 

:iagree: This happened to us too, though the state school was only slightly more than the private - nonetheless, it was more.

 

The thing I would discourage is for anyone to generalize from the experience of another poster to rule out whole categories of schools without doing their own research. Sometimes state schools will be less expensive, but sometimes they won't. Parents are wise to do careful research and consider a range of options.

 

 

:iagree: My guys knew we'd search carefully, they could apply (more or less) where they wanted, but they weren't to fall in love with a school until we had the financial packages in. They knew they needed to be happy at any of the schools they applied to. In the end, both of my older two are getting their first choices.

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As I said in my post there are a lot of individual factors to consider (student profile, student profile relative to applicant pool, regional advantages, cost of in-state publics, EFC, percent of need met, time it takes to earn a four year degree etc.) The thing I would discourage is for anyone to generalize from the experience of another poster to rule out whole categories of schools without doing their own research. Sometimes state schools will be less expensive, but sometimes they won't. Parents are wise to do careful research and consider a range of options.

 

Barbara,

 

We certainly agree on this statement. I think this is the point that Janice was originally trying to make. She was sharing her experience to counterbalance the many folks who've reported that a private college was a better deal for their dc. Her experience (and mine) show that that is not always true. Bottom line -- learn about the system and do your research.

 

Sounds like the students you work with across the country are lucky to have you as their adviser. From what I can tell, the majority of students across the country have uninformed college advising available to them, and that is a shame.

 

Brenda

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No to the bolded. If what the school is offering drops below the EFC, a student can't get federal aid of any sort UNLESS there are extenuating circumstances financially that the college has documented allowing them to lower an EFC.

 

Creekland,

 

This was true in our case. No extenuating circumstances. Federal loan was offered. :001_smile:

 

Peace,

Janice

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Creekland,

 

This was true in our case. No extenuating circumstances. Federal loan was offered. :001_smile:

 

Peace,

Janice

 

The subsidized loan or the unsubsidized one? If it was the subsidized loan, then your experience (which I'm NOT saying didn't happen) goes against everything financial aid folks have told me. The unsubsidized one is available to everyone I think, but the fed gov't doesn't pay the interest while the student is in college. It's just another student loan.

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Barbara,

 

This private I am talking about is several states away, and yes, it is listed in Pope's book. :001_smile:

 

We are doing our homework. And yes, things can change. But so far the preliminaries are pointing to in-state for the little lady.

 

I'm not saying folks shouldn't look into private schools. They should. But more information is better than less. As Brenda concurs, that EFC can be a tough hurdle to overcome when you live in an area where the COL is high. (Ex. If dh takes the BUS to work, it costs over $20 per day. If he needs to stay late - at least twice a week - the bus stops running. In that case he has to drive; the bridge toll is $12 and parking is $ 44 PER DAY! The gas is extra. :001_smile:)

 

Life is full of little surprises. When ds was going through this, I could have done without some of the surprises. With dd, we are going into this process with our eyes wide open. We are NOT cutting her off from anything, but we are also not setting her up for disappointment. She knows what she's up against.

 

It's fun to have hope when the fall-back position is do-able.

It's not so fun to have hope when the fall-back position is despair.

 

Peace,

Janice

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Barbara,

 

This private I am talking about is several states away, and yes, it is listed in Pope's book. :001_smile:

 

We are doing our homework. And yes, things can change. But so far the preliminaries are pointing to in-state for the little lady.

 

I'm not saying folks shouldn't look into private schools. They should. But more information is better than less. As Brenda concurs, that EFC can be a tough hurdle to overcome when you live in an area where the COL is high. (Ex. If dh takes the BUS to work, it costs over $20 per day. If he needs to stay late - at least twice a week - the bus stops running. In that case he has to drive; the bridge toll is $12 and parking is $ 44 PER DAY! The gas is extra. :001_smile:)

 

Life is full of little surprises. When ds was going through this, I could have done without some of the surprises. With dd, we are going into this process with our eyes wide open. We are NOT cutting her off from anything, but we are also not setting her up for disappointment. She knows what she's up against.

 

It's fun to have hope when the fall-back position is do-able.

It's not so fun to have hope when the fall-back position is despair.

 

Peace,

Janice

 

Make sure you discuss this with the financial aid office at the private school(s). Expenses such as these (work related - health related works too - private school tuition can even work according to one place - homeschooling expenses do not :glare:) are some of the reasons a college can legitimately lower an EFC (according to financial aid seminars I've attended at a few schools). It doesn't mean the college will adjust it, but it's worth asking - esp if it's a meets need school. What one needs is documented, legitimate expenses.

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Hi Creekland :001_smile:

 

Yes, there are two types of loans that handle the interest differently. Both are called a "Federal Loan" as I listed it. Some kids are eligible for interest-free loans while in school. Others are not; for them the interest starts piling up on the day the $$ is sent to the college. (Treating the parents differently makes some sense. Treating the kids differently when they all start at the same line (no assets), makes less sense to me. But it is what it is. I digress......)

 

But the scenario still works out as I listed it. Agreed? :001_smile:

 

Scenario # 2: School meets 100% of need

- Cost of Attendance (Tuition, Room, Board, Etc) = $ 50,000

- Merit Award = $ 35,000

- EFC = $ 25,000, BUT there is only $ 15,000 left to pay. The student may be offered a federal loan for $ 5,500. The parents would be expected to pay/borrow $ 9,500.

 

Peace,

Janice

 

P.S. Also sliding in a recommendation for Lynn's book. EXCELLENT! Very balanced. A great resource.

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:iagree: My guys knew we'd search carefully, they could apply (more or less) where they wanted, but they weren't to fall in love with a school until we had the financial packages in. They knew they needed to be happy at any of the schools they applied to..

 

Great conversations to have with kids early in the process. The hard thing is too often parents don't have these conversations. It may be because they don't get how crazy costs are going to be or because they want to give their kids their dreams... but reality will hit eventually. Better to have that conversation before they start looking at colleges instead of April senior year.

 

In my experience homeschooling families are less likely to fall into this trap because kids are around more often so they are less likely to be shielded from financial realities.

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Life is full of little surprises. When ds was going through this, I could have done without some of the surprises. With dd, we are going into this process with our eyes wide open. We are NOT cutting her off from anything, but we are also not setting her up for disappointment. She knows what she's up against.

 

It's fun to have hope when the fall-back position is do-able.

It's not so fun to have hope when the fall-back position is despair.

 

 

That's a great attitude. It is so important to have safeties - including financial safeties that are a place where the student would genuinely be happy. A lot of people just take those on there and figure it'll never happen only to get an unpleasant surprise in April.

 

Best of luck in the crazy process - I hope she gets some place she loves.

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Sounds like the students you work with across the country are lucky to have you as their adviser. From what I can tell, the majority of students across the country have uninformed college advising available to them, and that is a shame.

 

Brenda

 

Thanks. Yes, it is a really a shame how little is put into helping kids with what is one of the most important decisions they'll ever make.

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Barbara,

 

And don't get me wrong. She is very excited about the state school she has chosen. She really likes it there. She has met personally with admissions, the head of the department for her major, and the head of the department for a potential minor. She has done her homework this spring (visited four colleges). This past week she spoke with two of the tenured professors at the CC where she has been taking dual-enrollment classes; she asked for teacher recommendations. Their comments were extremely positive - both about her academic potential and her character. (A momma can always hope, but it's overwhelming to see it on paper. Made me cry.) The first, an English prof, placed her in the top 1% of students he has taught in the last forty years; he commented that she writes at a graduate student level. The second, a history prof, placed her in the top 1-3% range.

 

She is on top of the this process. She is doing her best. And I have done my best to prepare her. But school can be very expensive. We have to look for the best that we can afford. No grand illusions here. Hope, but not illusion.

 

Also understand that I went to an ivy. Not all kids are cut out for an ultra-competitive environment. This child thrives in collaborative environments. She works the hardest when her work benefits others as well as herself. She would rather help her neighbor get a better score than work to beat her neighbor. A rising tide raises all boats in her world. :001_smile:

 

Peace,

Janice

Edited by Janice in NJ
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