50-50 Highlights: Accessible, Quality Colleges for Merit Aid Opportunities
I'm able to maintain this website by displaying online advertisements to visitors. Please help support this free information by whitelisting the website.

50-50 Highlights: Accessible, Quality Colleges for Merit Aid Opportunities

Woman with money looking at computer for college merit aidAs I work with college data, I learn about different variables and add them to my data sets. I also occasionally create a variable to more accurately capture a concept or value that I think is important when trying to figure out how much college will cost. This is why you’ll see multiple posts on some variation of a list of colleges with the best financial aid. And because of the variation,  you’ll always find some colleges on one list and not another.  Well, I’m adding another list of colleges to consider for merit aid.

Sponsored Ad

What’s different about this list is that I’m taking into consideration PLUS loans which I have only recently added to the DIY College Rankings Search Spreadsheet. As I’ve discussed before, PLUS loans are often overlooked when comparing colleges.

I’ve also created a new variable, the ratio of average institutional grants to the total cost of attendance. In the past I used $15,000 as a minimum for identifying generous schools. However, that doesn’t take into account colleges that have a lower cost of attendance. Ten thousand dollars goes a lot further at a school that charges $38,000 than at a school that costs $58,000 to attend. This also brings in more public universities for consideration, although it only applies to in-state residents.

What to Look For

I’ve combined these variables with others I usually consider to generate the list of 50-50 colleges below that are likely to be affordable college options for those looking for merit aid. To make the list, at least 90% of freshman receive institutional aid.  I also required the average net price to be less than $30,000 because averages above $30,000 indicate pricey colleges even with aid.

Sponsored Ad

Instead of using a $15,000 minimum average institutional grant, I included only schools where the average institutional aid represents at least 35% of the total cost of attendance for in-state students. There are five schools on the list that met this percentage even though the average grant was less than $15,000, including the only public institution, the University of Vermont.

PLUS Loans are a Warning Sign

The last qualification for this affordable college list was to have 15% or less of full-time undergraduates have PLUS loans originated on their behalf during the past year. If a lot of parents are taking out loans then the college probably isn’t as affordable as it would seem.

These requirements left me with a list of 81 colleges. With the exception of the University of Vermont, they are smaller, private colleges. At least 30 of them don’t require an application fee. The colleges are located in 31 states. The majority are in the Great Lakes, Plains, or Southeastern regions of the country.

Some of these colleges don’t have a very high percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants. Others have a high percentage of freshman receiving non-federal loans.  And none of them are a sure thing for merit money. But for those with low financial need looking for affordable college alternatives, these 50-50 schools are worth further investigation. As usual, the 4 year graduation rate is used for private colleges and the 5 year rate for public.

Sponsored Ad

50-50 Colleges: Accessible, Quality Colleges for Merit Aid Opportunities

Name Type State Full-time Under-grads 4/5 yr Grad Rate % Freshman Receiving Pell Grants Avg Net Price After Gift Aid (2013-2014)
Birmingham Southern College Private AL 1,178 56 20 $22,250
Spring Hill College Private AL 1,178 51 35 $21,890
Hendrix College Private AR 1,339 66 21 $23,078
John Brown University Private AR 1,565 52 34 $18,924
Lyon College Private AR 691 49 48 $14,510
Fresno Pacific University Private CA 2,227 49 44 $16,325
Mills College Private CA 875 60 50 $27,403
Stetson University Private FL 2,804 56 34 $24,220
Agnes Scott College Private GA 847 73 41 $20,378
Augustana College Private IL 2,472 71 27 $24,651
Elmhurst College Private IL 2,699 61 31 $21,826
Illinois College Private IL 952 66 47 $16,881
Illinois Wesleyan University Private IL 1,885 75 22 $27,996
Knox College Private IL 1,367 73 34 $23,642
Lake Forest College Private IL 1,589 64 34 $24,500
DePauw University Private IN 2,186 75 22 $29,523
Earlham College Private IN 981 65 36 $20,589
Goshen College Private IN 702 55 39 $19,675
Saint Mary’s College Private IN 1,501 78 26 $26,529
University of Evansville Private IN 2,266 53 27 $21,164
Valparaiso University Private IN 3,150 60 28 $22,058
Loras College Private IA 1,446 51 25 $20,018
Luther College Private IA 2,339 74 21 $25,645
Northwestern College Private IA 1,100 54 30 $21,390
Simpson College Private IA 1,466 64 32 $21,229
Wartburg College Private IA 1,596 65 28 $22,619
Bellarmine University Private KY 2,383 53 29 $24,736
Centre College Private KY 1,386 80 16 $24,855
Transylvania University Private KY 1,010 63 22 $23,093
Loyola University New Orleans Private LA 2,618 51 35 $26,283
Goucher College Private MD 1,448 57 27 $29,854
McDaniel College Private MD 1,623 62 31 $22,917
Notre Dame of Maryland University Private MD 538 50 52 $18,370
Assumption College Private MA 2,021 66 24 $26,770
Clark University Private MA 2,213 72 26 $24,394
Simmons College Private MA 1,484 62 28 $28,840
Albion College Private MI 1,242 61 29 $24,906
Kalamazoo College Private MI 1,448 77 22 $26,064
College of Saint Benedict Private MN 1,992 74 26 $25,559
Concordia College at Moorhead Private MN 2,332 66 25 $22,827
Gustavus Adolphus College Private MN 2,425 80 27 $25,064
Saint Johns University Private MN 1,758 72 22 $24,333
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Private MN 1,298 55 33 $21,123
The College of Saint Scholastica Private MN 2,317 55 31 $22,124
Millsaps College Private MS 754 62 22 $21,661
Rockhurst University Private MO 1,536 62 21 $19,723
William Jewell College Private MO 1,019 57 32 $21,173
Creighton University Private NE 3,842 66 15 $28,551
Nebraska Wesleyan University Private NE 1,511 55 26 $20,987
Drew University Private NJ 1,357 57 32 $27,102
Canisius College Private NY 2,725 57 38 $20,505
Clarkson University Private NY 3,166 55 25 $28,303
Niagara University Private NY 2,833 59 32 $19,130
Siena College Private NY 2,990 74 26 $25,140
Salem College Private NC 790 61 57 $15,497
Denison University Private OH 2,263 79 19 $29,412
John Carroll University Private OH 3,010 60 27 $23,140
Marietta College Private OH 1,283 52 36 $23,266
The College of Wooster Private OH 2,024 70 18 $28,016
Xavier University Private OH 4,270 63 19 $28,111
Allegheny College Private PA 1,979 73 26 $27,773
Arcadia University Private PA 2,367 50 36 $26,337
Gannon University Private PA 2,593 50 31 $20,920
Geneva College Private PA 1,350 56 33 $19,369
Juniata College Private PA 1,547 72 25 $25,883
Saint Francis University Private PA 1,584 62 29 $23,456
Converse College Private SC 749 54 47 $17,826
Presbyterian College Private SC 1,078 58 31 $17,442
Augustana College Private SD 1,592 50 21 $19,834
Milligan College Private TN 828 56 34 $16,976
University of Dallas Private TX 1,313 63 19 $27,540
Saint Michael’s College Private VT 2,065 73 16 $29,047
University of Vermont Public VT 9,898 74 18 $17,075
Hollins University Private VA 580 58 41 $21,384
Roanoke College Private VA 1,978 57 20 $29,077
Whitworth University Private WA 2,320 65 29 $26,037
Wheeling Jesuit University Private WV 964 54 28 $18,849
Beloit College Private WI 1,249 71 29 $24,230
Lawrence University Private WI 1,473 66 18 $27,707
Ripon College Private WI 820 51 36 $20,559
Saint Norbert College Private WI 2,048 63 24 $22,793
50-50 Highlights: Accessible, Quality Colleges for Merit Aid Opportunities

Leave a Comment