I’ve talked about colleges most likely to provide merit aid before. In this post I’m going to focus just on 50-50 schools and consider all financial indicators. For example, in previous lists I didn’t take into consideration PLUS loans. I also limited schools by test scores which I don’t do in this list.
I created this list using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the following criteria:
- 85% or more of freshman receive institutional aid
- Average institutional aid award was 35% or greater of the total cost
- Fewer than 10% of freshman had non-federal loans
- Fewer than 15% PLUS Loans
- The average net price is less than $30,000
- The endowment per student is $50,000 or greater
After apply these criteria I was left with 33 colleges. I then looked up some financial aid data only available through the Common Data Set. Three of the schools I dropped because they met on average less than 80% of freshman need and had less than 20% of non-need freshman receiving awards. In other words, they aren’t particularly good for need-based or merit-based aid.
Of the 30 colleges left, 8 meet 85% or less of average need for freshman. Goucher College is probably not very friendly for need-based financial aid since it only met 79% of freshman need and it dropped to 61% for all undergraduates.
Twelve colleges met 90% or more of freshman need. Mills College, however, only met 80% of all undergraduate need which is something students looking for need-based aid should ask about.
Two of the schools, Hiram College and Doane College, are definitely not good bets for merit aid since they provided less than 10% freshman with non-need awards. Another seven provided less than 20% of freshman with non-need awards. Nine colleges provided non-need awards to 30% or more of freshman.
According to the Common Data Set, the average amount of non-need awards ranged from $7,414 to $24,149. You can’t really determine that a $20,000 average is better than $10,000 since the total price was as low as $40,400 to as high as $61,016. If you can save $20,000 just by going to a cheaper college, does it matter that the more expensive college offers $15,000 in merit aid compared to only $10,000 at a lower priced school?
Nor is the amount of non-need merit aid necessarily correlated with the total price. Two of the lower priced schools averaged over $16,000 in non-need aid while three of the higher priced colleges average less than $17,000.
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that the majority of the colleges are in the south or the mid-west. Only two are in the Northeast or on the West Coast. All but five of the schools are Liberal Arts Colleges.
Nine of schools didn’t list any application fees in the IPEDS data. Six reported fees over $40. Eight of the schools require the PROFILE for financial aid and four of those require the non-custodial form as well.
Even though I didn’t use any test score requirements, there isn’t a shortage of good test takers attending these schools. Of the schools reporting test scores to IPEDS, the 75th% ACT scores ranged from 25 to 31. Sixteen of the colleges had 75th% ACT Composite scores in the 90th percentile or higher and seven where in the 95th percentile or higher.
The following list displays all 50-50 colleges that met the criteria based on IPEDS data available as of January 2016. All of the IPEDS data is available in the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet.
Best 50-50 Private Colleges to Target for Financial Aid
Starting in July 13th, Debbie Schwartz of the Road2College and I are offering a class that will show you step by step the process how to target schools for financial aid. This includes both need-based and merit-based aid. We’ll explain how understanding the financial aid process and the influence of college rankings can affect your financial aid award. And we’ll show you how to adjust your search for your specific needs and situation.