50-50 Highlights: Best Financial Bets for Public Universities

graduate holding money represent public colleges best financial betsA few years ago I did a post on Best Financial Bets for 50-50 Public Universities. The idea is to create a list of public schools that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate and are likely to be affordable through either merit or need-based financial aid. I’ve decide to update the list using simpler criteria which increased the number of colleges on the list. Ultimately, I ended up with 66 50-50 public colleges as best financial bets. If you aren’t interested in the gory details of how I came up with the list, just skip to the end to see the entire list.

Start with average net price

I started with 50-50 public universities where the average net price was under $16,000 per year. This is a good general indicator of affordability since it is calculated using all students, not just those receiving financial aid. The average net price for public 50-50 schools was $15,909 so $16,000 made a good number to start with. This gave me 92 schools as a base.

Just to give you an idea of the difference that average net price makes, six of the schools on the final list had a total cost of attendance of over $30,000 for in-state students. Another 53 were between $20,000 and $30,000. The lower the average net price, the more financial aid students are receiving.

However, you can’t tell from Average Net Price if just a few students are receiving a lot of money or if a lot of students are receiving a little money. You can’t even be certain of where the money is coming from since it includes gift aid from any source. So I narrowed the list by looking at some additional data.

Look at institutional aid for merit aid possibilities

The first is the percentage of freshman receiving institutional aid. Among 50-50 public universities, 56% of freshman are receiving institutional aid. 49 of the 92 schools had 56% or more of freshman receiving institutional aid.

Institutional aid can be awarded based on need or merit. Schools where a higher percentage of freshman receive institutional aid are likely awarding a lot of merit aidSixteen of the schools on the list had 80% or more of freshman receiving institutional aid. It’s unlikely it’s all based on need. These are schools to investigate for merit aid.

Top 50-50 Public Universities with Highest Percentage of Freshman Receiving Institutional Aid

  1. New College of Florida
  2. Truman State University
  3. University of Idaho
  4. Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix
  5. University of Minnesota-Morris
  6. University of Maine
  7. Arizona State University-Tempe
  8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
  9. Arizona State University-West
  10. University of Maine at Farmington

Some are more likely to meet need

This brings up the issue of need-base aid. Schools may decide to focus their money on meeting need.

Therefore, I looked at the average net price for freshman in the lowest family income category. I included all schools where the average net price for students with family income was $9,500 or lower. This means students could pay for the average net price with a federal direct loan of $5,500, $2,000 from their own earnings, and $2,000 from parents. The reality is that this would still be an insurmountable amount for many families in this category but we are dealing with averages.

A total of 43 of the 92 schools fell into this category. This includes 17 that don’t meet the 56% percentage of institutional aid. In some cases, this indicates that the school is directing its institutional aid to meeting need. In others, it means students are receiving significant state aid.  You can see this at schools in Wisconsin, Georgia, and California.

Top 50-50 Public Universities with Lowest Average Net Price for Low Income Students

  1. Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  2. University of Minnesota-Morris
  3. University of Connecticut-Tri-Campus
  4. Purdue University-Main Campus
  5. University of Connecticut-Stamford
  6. University of Connecticut-Avery Point
  7. Arizona State University-West
  8. University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
  9. Indiana University-Bloomington
  10. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

And this brings me to an important reminder, the numbers on this list apply only to students who receive in-state tuition. If you are applying as an out-of-state student, these numbers do not apply to you! Now, I know what the next question is and no, there isn’t any information about financial aid for out-of-state students. Sorry.

When I combine those schools that meet the minimum institutional aid requirement or the maximum allowable average net price for low-income students, I have 66 schools. I’ve listed them in the spreadsheet below.

Remember, I had to use some number as a cut-off. That means some schools may have just barely missed being on the list. For example, the University of Hawaii at Manoa has 50% of freshman receiving institutional aid and the average net price for the lowest income category is $9,525. So please don’t consider these schools as the only best financial aid bets for public schools. They’re a good place to start based on averages of available information.

Best Financial Bets for 50-50 Public Universities

List of 66 best financial bets for public colleges that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate.

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