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And the reality is that once you do a little more investigating, many of these colleges may not make it on to your list of colleges to apply to. There are the usual reasons, doesn’t offer the major you want, too small, too big, etc. But there are also some other numbers you need to know than just the average $25,000 financial aid award which is reported as the average institutional grant. This is money from the college the student doesn’t have to pay back or earn.
Here’s the thing, $25,000 may be the average amount the institution awards, but not every student receives an institutional grant. So obviously you’ll want to know what percentage of freshman are receiving the award. The $25,000 isn’t that big of a deal if only 10% of the students are even receiving institutional grants. And remember, it is an average.
Then there’s the difference between how much you will save, $25,000, and how much it will still cost you. Maybe you will get $25,000 from a college but what if its total cost is $70,000? It’s not such a great deal compared to a $10,000 award from a college that costs $45,000. The truth is that there is a lot of variation in the numbers as you can see in the table below.
Of the 36 Private 50-50 colleges on the list, the average institutional grant ranges from a low of $14,174 at the Alabama college to a high of $39,179 in New York with the average being $26,696. That’s a pretty big difference in numbers but you probably shouldn’t make travel plans until you look at some of the other numbers I just mentioned.
At the college in Alabama, 97% of freshmen are receiving institutional grants while only 65% of those at the school in New York are. This probably means that the Alabama school is offering more merit aid while the New York school is focusing on need-based aid. Among private colleges on the list, the average percentage of freshman receiving institutional aid ranges from 60% to 100% with the average being 94%.
Then there’s the big difference in the prices between the two colleges. The college in Alabama has a total cost of attendance of $46,474. If a student received the average institutional award, she would only be paying a little more than $32,000 a year. The cost of the New York school is $70,562. If students managed to qualify for an institutional grant, they would actually be paying slightly less than those at the Alabama school.
However, that wouldn’t be the case if the students went to the Texas school. It’s actually more expensive than the New York school but its average institutional award is only $31,888. This means the students would still have to come up with over $40,000 a year.
Institutional aid is essentially a coupon the college provides to get students to attend the school. How much a student actually receives will depend on a combination of factors including the families family’s financial status. This is why families should always use Net Price Calculators when considering colleges.
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Yet, there are over 1,600 four-year colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates. Do you really want to use the Net Price Calculator at every school? Obviously by searching for colleges based institutional grants, families can start narrowing their search. Unfortunately, the most popular college search websites don’t allow you to search colleges based on a combination of average institutional grants and the percentage of freshman receiving them. That’s why I created my DIYCollegeRankings Spreadsheet. It allows you to search for colleges most likely to provide you with the “coupon” while meeting your family’s academic and social needs.
The following table lists the 50-50 college providing the largest average institutional award in each state. As usual, the 4-year graduation rate is used for private colleges and the 5-year rate for public.
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