Up from last year, the list shows how the economy may have affected the ability of some schools to meet the goal like Arkansas State, the University of Southern California, and Washington & Lee University—all of which dropped off the list. And yet, the University of Notre Dame is now on the list after not making the cut last year.
Frankly, there aren’t many institutions wealthy enough to make a commitment to meet the full financial needs of all admitted students. Locally, Georgetown, UVa, and the University of Richmond are among the few.
But as usual, there are strings attached. Most of the colleges appearing on the USNWR list will only guarantee to meet the needs of students who are US citizens and who apply for financial aid before the school’s posted deadline. For many schools, all bets are off if you are foreign, late, or waitlisted.
And as always, the Wizard of Id’s “Golden Rule” applies. In other words, “He who has the gold makes the rules,” so there are varying definitions of need—most of which will NOT match yours.
For example, some colleges provide enough grant money to make up the difference between a family’s federal Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the school’s total Cost of Attendance (COA). Others calculate their own EFC, using data collected from the CSS PROFILE or other school-based financial aid applications. These more “personalized” formulas may or may not count home equity or other elements of net worth. Under these rules, a student’s level of “need” can vary wildly from college to college.
And how do schools meet full need? That too varies significantly by institution. Some schools provide enough in grants and work-study income to meet a student’s entire need without throwing loans into the mix. Others will offer aid packages that include subsidized student loans.
So it becomes very important for families to review and analyze aid packages to determine the balance between free money or grants that don’t have to be repaid and loans which come due at graduation. The FinAid website has a great award comparison tool for this purpose. And there are hopes that the federal "model" financial aid award letter or Shopping Sheet will eventually solve the problem.
While the list of colleges claiming to be committed to meeting full financial aid might seem appealing, keep in mind that you could end up with lower tuition bills at other institutions when you figure in merit scholarships, residency, and regional tuition breaks.
Nevertheless, according to US News and World Report, the following is the list of schools meeting full need in the fall of 2011 (the most recent collective data available):
- Alabama: Amridge University,* Concordia College*
- California: California Institute of Technology, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Occidental, Pitzer, Pomona, Scripps, Stanford, Thomas Aquinas
- Connecticut: Trinity, Wesleyan, Yale
- DC: Georgetown University
- Georgia: Emory University
- Indiana: University of Notre Dame
- Iowa: Grinnell College
- Illinois: Northwestern, University of Chicago
- Massachusetts: Amherst, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Franklin Olin College of Engineering, Harvard, MIT, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Tufts, Wellesley, Williams
- Maine: Bates, Bowdoin, Colby
- Minnesota: Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf
- Missouri: Washington University in St. Louis
- North Carolina: Davidson, Duke, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
- New Hampshire: Dartmouth College
- New Jersey: Princeton University
- New York: Barnard, Colgate, Columbia University, Cornell, Hamilton, Vassar
- Ohio: Oberlin
- Pennsylvania: Bryn Athyn College of the New Church,* Bryn Mawr, Gettysburg, Haverford, Swarthmore, University of Pennsylvania
- Rhode Island: Brown University
- Tennessee: Vanderbilt
- Texas: Austin College,* Rice University
- Virginia: Richmond, University of Virginia
- Vermont: Middlebury College
- Wisconsin: Carroll University*
* Did not appear on last year’s list