84 Best Bet Public Universities for Meeting Financial Need

public colleges that meet 100% of need(Based on some readers comments, I just want to clarify that the schools on this list at the end of the post are only “Best Bets” for residents of the state. Out-of-state students shouldn’t expect any financial assistance from these schools.) If there is a list of the top three things families entering the college search process must know, one of them would have to be that very few colleges meet 100% of need. Just because the federal government and the institution recognize a specific amount of need doesn’t mean the student will receive a matching amount of financial aid. This is why lists of colleges that meet 100% of need are very popular.

Unfortunately, schools on such lists are generally some of the most competitive colleges in the nation. Since most are private, such lists provide further evidence that private schools are more likely to meet financial need than public schools. Out of 60 something colleges that claim to meet 100% of need, only four are public institutions.

According to CollegeData.com, there are only four public colleges that meet 100% of need: Northeastern State University (OK), Southern University at New Orleans, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Virginia. A total of 30 public colleges report meeting 90% or more of student need.

The problem is that only five of these colleges have five-year graduation rates of 50% or better. There are 13 that have five-year graduation rates of 25% or less.  Of the four schools with graduation rates over 80%, the University of Virginia has only 11% of freshman receiving Pell Grants and the University of North Carolina has only 20%. Yet, these two institutions had the highest average endowment per student out of all of the schools.

Furthermore, despite meeting an average of 90% or more of need, eight colleges have an average net price of $10,000 or greater for students with family incomes of $30,000 or less. This should serve as a reminder that when colleges report the percentage of need met, they include subsidized loans as part of the aid used to meet need. The average net price is calculated after deducting awarded gift aid only.

If you just go by colleges meeting 100% of need, private institutions would seem to be outperforming their public counterparts. However, if you look at the 430 colleges that have an average net price of $10,000 or less for students with a family income of $30,000 or less, 366 are public schools.

Since the most expensive degree is the one you don’t complete, I checked for colleges with a 50% or better graduation rate using the 4-year rate for private schools and the 5-year rate for public. Of the 127 schools remaining on the list, 84 are public. Among the public schools, the acceptance rates ranged from a low of 18% to a high of 97% with 57 schools have a 50% or better acceptance rate. Among the private colleges, the acceptance rates ranged from 6% to 75% with only three schools reporting accepting 50% or more of applicants.

So if you don’t like your chances of getting into one of the private colleges that meet 100% of need, you might consider one of the 84 public institutions listed in the table below.

The list isn’t perfect. To start with, 20 states don’t have any schools on this list. Then there are the 17 colleges and universities that have 20% or fewer of freshman receiving Pell Grants which makes you wonder how accessible these schools really are despite their acceptance rates. And based on the percentage of freshman receiving institutional aid, for many on the list the lower average net price has more to do with federal and state aid and lower tuition than institutional grants. Consider the list as a place for student with financial need to start exploring the possibilities of public colleges likely to meet their need.

Public Universities and Colleges Most Likely to Meet Need
(Average Net Price for Income $30,000 is $10,000 or Less and
5-Year Graduation Rate is 50% or more)
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*indicates schools that reported meeting on average 90% or more of freshman need.

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