20 Schools to Avoid if You’re Making a List of Affordable Colleges

college student thinking about Schools to Avoid if You’re Making a List of Affordable CollegesIn case you haven’t heard, some colleges are more likely to provide you institutional scholarships and grants than others. Some are more generous with merit aid while others give better need-based aid. And just as some colleges are known for their aid, there are those that are known for the lack of it. In this post, I’m listing 20 colleges that you should avoid if you’re looking for significant help in cutting the cost of college.

For the most part, these schools start off expensive. All but five had a total cost of attendance of $60,000 or more for 2015-16. One was just below $60,000 and four others were actually in the upper $40,000s.

Because Paying Two Thirds of Your Income is Reasonable

Of course, everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to go by sticker price since colleges discount their tuition through financial aid awards. However, there isn’t a lot of evidence to show that these schools are going to meet students financial aid need. The average net price for students with family incomes under $30,000 are all above $20,000.

Yet, five of the schools claim to meet 90% or more of need based on the Common Data Set. A total of 10 say they meet 80% or more of need. It is possible since these schools tend to have a low percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants. It’s easy to meet the need of students who can already pay 80% or 90% of the cost. This would explain why the average need-based awards are generally lower than other schools that claim to meet 90% or more of need.

However, if students qualify for tuition waivers, don’t use them to apply to these schools.

You Can Save Money But Still Pay a Lot

Now some of these schools may seem like good opportunities for merit aid. After all, 63% of freshman at the University of San Francisco without need are receiving merit money according to CollegeData.com. Unfortunately, the average award of $13,409 will only bring the total cost down to around $50,000.

There are some schools on the list that you can make the case that they offer generous merit-aid. SMU, Rollins, and Tulane all have more than 30% of freshman without need receiving merit aid. Furthermore, the average awards are from $18,000 to over $24,000. If you’re prepared to pay over $40,000, then saving over $80,000 over four years looks pretty good. Just remember that the average total cost of attendance for private colleges without any financial aid is just under $46,000.

Popular Items Don’t Tend to Go On Sale

Ultimately, these schools don’t have to be particularly generous with financial aid since they are in demand. Over half of them accept less than 50% of students. With the exception of SMU, Tulane, and Belmont, these colleges are all located in the popular coastal states.

In addition, almost all of them fall into the “Goldilocks” size of schools, not too big, not too small. Students seem to prefer schools between 5,000 and 10,000 students. Unless they’re in Boston or New York when bigger is part of the experience.

And these schools are up and coming in the rankings. Five of the schools are ranked in the top 50 of national universities and another six are  highly ranked regional universities.

Basically, these schools have plenty of qualified students applying and don’t need to offer financial incentives.

Of course, there’s always some students who will receive generous aid from these schools. It’s just that the odds are against you, more so than at other schools. Should any of these schools do appeal to you, you might check out similar schools by using CollegeResults.org.  At the very least, use the schools’ net price calculator before falling in love with it. Ultimately, if cost is a major factor in your college search, these are not schools to include on your college list.

Colleges Frugal with Financial Aid


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