In 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.
It doesn’t help that these schools start off expensive. All of these schools had a total cost of attendance of $60,000 or more for 2018-19. A total of 13 were actually above $70,000.
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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 need. The average net price for students with family incomes under $30,000 are all above $20,000.
Yet, three schools on the list reported meeting 90% or more of need for freshman with another six saying they meet 80% or more of need on the Common Data Set.
It is possible since these schools tend to have a low percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants. At all but two of the colleges (Drexel University and University of San Francisco), 20% or fewer of freshman were 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, 77% of freshman at Loyola Marymount University without need are receiving merit money according to the Common Data Set. Unfortunately, the average award of $10,282 will only bring the total cost down to around $57,000.
You can make the case that the majority of the schools on the list are great bets for merit. At 14 of the schools, at least 50% of the freshman without need receive merit awards. But the average merit awards aren’t necessarily generous. By generous, I’m talking about the amount of money saved.
At seven of the schools, the savings are less than 25% of the tuition. The savings at the other seven schools represent 27% to a 37% off of the total cost of attendance. This essentially can pay for a year of school assuming the costs don’t increase dramatically.
If you go by how much you actually spend on college over four years, even with the savings families will be paying over $200,000 at 10 of 14 best bets for merit aid of the schools. Now this may be a great deal for those who are prepared to pay $50,000. However, given that colleges with a full $50,000 sticker price also offer merit scholarships, even with the more “generous” awards mean the colleges on the list will remain expensive for most families.
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Ultimately, these schools don’t have to be particularly generous with financial aid since they are in demand. Twelve of the colleges on the list accept fewer than 50% of students. Only two have acceptance rates over 60%. With the exception of SMU, these colleges are all located in the popular coastal states.
In addition, half 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 over two-thirds of these schools are getting attention from the college rankings. Six rank in the top 50 nationally but haven’t broken the top 20. Another ten make the next 50 and another tops the regional rankings.
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