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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.

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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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5 yr
Avg Net
Income $0-$30,000
Receiving Institutional Grants
United States Merchant Marine AcademyNY9587410-7690
Texas A & M University-College StationTX39641756926317458
Indiana University-BloomingtonIN31050747219463246
University of North Carolina School of the ArtsNC781594527487865
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical CollegeLA22811627623504950
CUNY Bernard M Baruch CollegeNY10396602546514815
University of Michigan-Ann ArborMI27316883314552946
Virginia Military InstituteVA1675744713557165
University of Connecticut-StamfordCT924594140562142
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill*NC17570882820572946
University of Washington-Seattle CampusWA27050785522622031
Michigan State UniversityMI34838746921629339
San Diego State UniversityCA24037593134629829
North Carolina State University at RaleighNC21469685021645652
Arizona State University-WestAZ2694507647648988
University of Virginia-Main Campus*VA15089923011659126
University of Washington-Bothell CampusWA3432617639667645
University of South Florida-Main CampusFL23734574542668870
Appalachian State UniversityNC15115646324684534
New College of FloridaFL7936461257007100
West Virginia UniversityWV21027538526706260
Massachusetts Maritime AcademyMA1333647719711553
University of North Carolina at AshevilleNC3129566426713459
Purdue University-Main CampusIN28659646019722843
Rutgers University-NewarkNJ5827605449728635
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main CampusGA13291765514736428
University of North Carolina at GreensboroNC12469506048739254
University of California-RiversideCA18205626256765176
The University of Texas at AustinTX36899754026766743
St Mary's College of MarylandMD1762787212780658
Clemson UniversitySC16050795816781565
University of Maryland-College ParkMD24522824715790153
The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleTN19799627230790857
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignIL31516826221795442
University of North Carolina WilmingtonNC11408685421795843
University of GeorgiaGA24746805621800418
University of California-IrvineCA23127844248809665
University of Florida*FL30314834729811132
The College of New JerseyNJ6455824319816745
Arizona State University-TempeAZ34989558029824685
University of Wisconsin-MadisonWI28568796813830637
University of Minnesota-MorrisMN1815615834831282
SUNY College at BrockportNY6411644838838964
SUNY College at PlattsburghNY5186584634839276
University of California-Berkeley*CA25220891827850658
East Carolina UniversityNC18500526232858339
Stony Brook UniversityNY14892633934858554
Truman State UniversityMO5375707223860098
Iowa State UniversityIA26177638321865375
The Evergreen State CollegeWA3766539732868773
Arizona State University-PolytechnicAZ2789517531870174
University of Minnesota-DuluthMN8989547825873160
University of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireWI9508607626876541
University of ArkansasAR18565555922880135
The University of Texas at DallasTX10635595926880172
Western Washington University*WA12942648423885936
University of California-San DiegoCA23152813830886151
Central Washington UniversityWA8996508236886659
University of California-Los AngelesCA28084882231888351
State University of New York at New PaltzNY6060684429900245
SUNY OneontaNY5675695127904650
University of Wisconsin-Stevens PointWI865052833190959
Ball State UniversityIN15128566135917846
University at BuffaloNY18091685731918127
Ramapo College of New JerseyNJ4992715523919933
Michigan Technological UniversityMI5198587728920492
University of Wisconsin-La CrosseWI9188627220929120
University of DelawareDE16852796514940951
Towson UniversityMD16588616022945534
Texas Tech UniversityTX24338546624946841
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMN28940724421953551
University of California-Santa BarbaraCA19076794441954662
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Lehigh ValleyPA719518541955947
University of California-DavisCA25826774537957367
University of Illinois at ChicagoIL15402517154961865
Oklahoma State University-Main CampusOK17793557627967772
University of KentuckyKY19884556925974359
Radford UniversityVA8545567826978919
Texas State UniversityTX2568351753698596
University of Northern IowaIA9330628325989159
Colorado State University-Fort CollinsCO20400597724989845
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoCA18058613114993831
SUNY College at OswegoNY6954564940995144
University of California-Santa CruzCA15323696051998971

*indicates schools that reported meeting on average 90% or more of freshman need.

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