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50-50 Highlights: Colleges Awarding the Most Institutional Financial Aid

College graduate holding money representing institutional aidAnyone who has been paying attention to college costs and financial aid has probably heard that there really isn’t one set sticker price for college. It’s a lot like airline tickets. People sitting next to each other on a flight probably paid very different amounts for their tickets depending on when they bought them. Like airline tickets, very few families actually pay the sticker price for college.

Yet, it’s really a pretty simplistic comparison because comparing college prices is a lot harder. After all, airline ticket prices may fluctuate but the number you see is the one you’ll actually pay. Well, ok, unless you want to check a bag, leave from an airport with extra fees, or have to pay a fuel surcharge. But no one is offering you a loan to pay for the ticket and then claiming to have reduced the cost of the flight.

Furthermore, some colleges like to advertise large “coupons” as a way to convince students to apply. An average award of $20,000 sounds a lot better than $10,000. That is until you compare it to a base price of $60,000 versus $40,000. And the lack of consistency among college financial aid award letters doesn’t make the process any easier.

Colleges with the Biggest Coupons

So for this week’s 50-50 college list, I’m going to look at schools that offer the highest institutional aid as a percentage of tuition. However, don’t take this as a definitive list of 50-50 colleges offering the best aid. The institutional aid is the average amount of money awarded to freshman receiving aid. At some schools, less than 40% of all freshman receive aid.

Also remember that institutional aid includes both need-based and merit aid. I cover more on their differences here. Like I said, figuring out airline ticket prices is easy compared to this. Take the following list as just one way of identifying potentially generous schools.

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How Many People Get the Coupons?

You really need to also consider the percentage of freshman receiving institutional awards. When I selected the top 20% of schools with the highest average institutional award as a percentage of tuition and those with the highest percentage of freshman receiving awards, there wasn’t a lot of overlap between the two lists. Only 12 of 33 public schools made both lists. Of the 77 private colleges where all freshman receive institutional aid, only 24 made the top 20% of those with the highest institutional award as a percentage of tuition.

The following lists show the top 20% of 50-50 Colleges in terms of institutional aid as a percentage of total cost. As usual, the 4-year graduation rate is used for private colleges and the 5-year rate for public institutions.

Colleges With the Highest Institutional Aid

 

Name State Full-time Under-grad 4/5 yr Grad Rate % Institutional Grants of Total Price (in-state) % Freshman Receiving Institutional Grants Total Price In-State Students (15-16) Avg Net Price After Gift Aid (2014-2015)
Birmingham Southern College AL 1,337 53 46 99 $48,510 $23,036
Hendrix College AR 1,318 64 47 100 $56,214 $24,955
Agnes Scott College GA 876 61 47 100 $50,386 $20,799
Augustana College, IL IL 2,460 70 46 99 $50,698 $22,715
Knox College IL 1,368 69 47 98 $52,759 $22,971
Lake Forest College IL 1,553 66 44 98 $55,130 $25,150
Olivet Nazarene University IL 3,043 51 45 100 $44,390 $20,437
Earlham College IN 980 60 51 96 $56,510 $23,258
Hanover College IN 1,127 65 45 97 $47,666 $20,901
Wabash College IN 867 70 44 98 $51,840 $22,901
Coe College IA 1,357 60 49 100 $51,260 $21,270
Loras College IA 1,418 57 47 100 $40,217 $19,234
Luther College IA 2,303 69 44 100 $51,165 $25,112
McDaniel College MD 1,604 63 47 100 $52,320 $22,177
Mount Holyoke College MA 2,095 78 50 80 $58,646 $26,082
Alma College MI 1,335 49 45 100 $48,268 $22,157
Kalamazoo College MI 1,434 77 46 97 $54,766 $25,906
Gustavus Adolphus College MN 2,342 81 46 98 $52,830 $23,552
Saint John’s University MN 1,712 66 44 100 $52,230 $24,775
Millsaps College MS 749 59 47 99 $50,718 $22,512
Rockhurst University MO 1,442 60 45 100 $49,900 $22,939
William Jewell College MO 1,026 56 46 100 $45,610 $21,753
Canisius College NY 2,538 60 46 96 $49,956 $19,754
Cazenovia College NY 943 55 47 99 $46,930 $17,479
Clarkson University NY 3,185 52 44 99 $62,332 $29,666
Elmira College NY 1,123 52 46 100 $53,100 $24,358
Salem College NC 768 52 44 98 $43,710 $17,210
Ohio Wesleyan University OH 1,655 64 45 99 $58,260 $29,627
The College of Wooster OH 2,027 77 46 99 $57,500 $28,038
Wittenberg University OH 1,760 59 46 99 $50,718 $24,559
Allegheny College PA 1,890 68 44 100 $56,710 $26,312
Chatham University PA 667 50 46 93 $49,022 $21,066
Lycoming College PA 1,272 57 50 100 $49,856 $19,007
Mercyhurst University PA 2,402 64 46 98 $48,709 $21,577
Ursinus College PA 1,632 74 47 99 $62,922 $29,205
Westminster College PA 1,093 69 45 100 $46,725 $20,727
Erskine College SC 615 56 53 100 $49,765 $11,986
Presbyterian College SC 990 62 48 99 $49,580 $19,005
Augustana College, SD SD 1,516 57 45 100 $39,628 $19,276
Austin College TX 1,226 71 44 99 $50,647 $23,690
Bennington College VT 680 61 51 94 $66,120 $29,030
Hollins University VA 621 55 53 100 $50,735 $18,014
Lawrence University WI 1,515 63 46 97 $55,275 $26,646
Northland College WI 513 54 46 100 $44,553 $19,191
Ripon College WI 785 60 47 100 $45,942 $20,043
50-50 Highlights: Colleges Awarding the Most Institutional Financial Aid

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