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Experience with Financial Aid at "568" Schools?

Boston2008Boston2008 53 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
My parents have a house in the northeast that would be considered "very expensive" in many parts of the country, but is just mid-range for here. For any school using the "CSS Profile" and the Institutional Methodology it will disqualify me from getting any need-based financial aid.

There are about 30 schools in the"568 President's Group" that have committed to uniformity in assessing the family EFC. From our reading it appears that they limit the amount of home equity that they will count as the parents' asset. My mom sent emails to several of the schools on the list asking about their policy and received widely varying replies.

Does anyone have experience with receiving a financial aid award from one of these schools and do you have a sense whether they "capped" your home's value in determining your parents' assets?

Amherst College
Boston College
Brown University
Claremont-McKenna College
Columbia University
Cornell University
Dartmouth College
Davidson College
Duke University
Emory University
Georgetown University
Grinnell College
Haverford College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Middlebury College
Northwestern University
Pomona College
Rice University
Swarthmore College
University of Chicago
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
Vanderbilt University
Wake Forest University
Wellesley College
Wesleyan University
Williams College
Yale University
edited November 2007
79 replies
Post edited by Boston2008 on
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Replies to: Experience with Financial Aid at "568" Schools?

  • bluetissuesbluetissues 249 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I know that Haverford DOES NOT cap it, and as a result offered me the most horrific financial aid package ever (AKA nothing),while Davidson, for example, offered me about $6,000 in need-based aid (also got an $8,000 merit scholarship), and Davidson's cost is about $8,000 less than Haverford's to begin with. Needless to say, although Haverford had been my dream school, I picked Davidson.
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    We got a great package from Williams, but we got the same package from Barnard, not on the list. We do have significant equity in our home in the northeast.
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  • xiggixiggi 24571 replies872 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Inasmuch as I don't want to dispute Bluetissues' experience at Haverford, the information available seems to contradict that schools that use the Consensus Approach do NOT cap the home equity.

    Institutional methodology
    Home equity included. No limit on amount considered asset available to pay for college.
    Consensus approach
    Home equity included. Home value is capped at 2.4 times income minus mortgage debt.

    Despite the lack of any MEANINGFUL effort by the members to become totally transparent, the veil of secrecy does not impact the United States Government Accountability Office.

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06963.pdf
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  • windywindy 152 replies5 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    The good news the 568 group reduced the multiple to 1.2....

    "Here’s a weird one: 29 elite schools--known as the 568 Presidents’ Group, after the federal antitrust exception that allows them to set joint-aid rules--count the market value of a house, up to 2.4 times a family’s income, as an available asset, regardless of a family’s equity. (If your income is $100,000, the cap is $240,000, and you’re supposedly able to kick in an extra $12,000 a year from your house, even if it’s already mortgaged to the rafters.) Happily, the 568 group, including Dartmouth, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania, plans to change to a more generous scheme that counts only equity and caps that at 1.2 times income. (Member schools are listed at 568group.org.)" Forbes...

    The bad news... most of the schools use "professional judgement" in the application of this... and it varies widely...remember the scene from Pirate of the Caribbean..."the code is sort of guidelines"
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  • Boston2008Boston2008 53 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    The problem is, Xiggi, we thought they all used the same methodology, but then my mom sent emails to a couple of the schools I am interested in, and got pretty different answers: Haverford-said they don't cap the equity(ever), U of Chicago said sometimes, but not often; we are waiting for an answer from a few others.

    I need to send in a bunch of applications soon, and don't want to waste my time if we can't afford those schools, and I am perplexed about this "consensus" methodology and what it will mean when the "envelopes" come in...

    There are about 5 or 6 schools on the list that I am interested in, and I have the grades and tests scores to possibly get in.

    Appreciate any light anyone can shed...
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  • jerzgrlmomjerzgrlmom 1223 replies22 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yale did not consider our home equity at all in their FA estimate - at least it didn't seem that way since the FA pkg was better than we expected. When I approached other comparable schools, they said that Yale must have CHOSEN to use the FAFSA method. I didn't know Profile schools could do that. The good news is that if one school does it, you can ask other comparable schools to "reconsider" their estimate (we were told not to ask them to "match" it) - it worked for us.
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  • anxiousmomanxiousmom 5794 replies105 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Rice gave us good financial aid, and seems to cap home equity. With our first child there, we paid about FAFSA amount. With two in there, we paid about Fafsa amount. Not sure what will happen next year with just DS at Rice, as home value hasgone up quite a bit - but they have been very fair with us the other four years, so I am optimistic!!! OP, I think it is worthwhile for you to apply to the schools you are interested in, and then compare financial aid packages. You can't know what you will be offered until you are offered it!
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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I suggest you need to let us know which 5-6 schools you are interested in first. It does little good to give information on a school you would not apply to.
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  • Boston2008Boston2008 53 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks everyone!
    Here are the schools I would like to apply to:

    Claremont-McKenna College
    Emory University
    Georgetown University
    Haverford College
    Northwestern University
    University of Chicago

    I appreciate any insight you have on how these schools treated your home equity in the financial aid award.
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  • entomomentomom 22547 replies1111 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Last year Yale offered us some grants and WS in their initial FA package. In a reevaluation of our offer (in response to better FA packages from other peer schools) they stated in their letter, "During our initial assessment of your financial need, we protected some of her home equity. And we have now increased this protection even more." Two other schools on the 568 list offered us zero in their initial FA offers. In our experience, we did not see any uniformity in FA offers between these schools.

    I agree that the code is only a set of guidelines and that each school uses a good dose of professional judgement in making their FA offers. What most people don't understand is that included in that professional judgement are TWO factors: your financial situation AND how much they want your kid.

    Sorry Boston, I don't have any experience with the schools you've listed.
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  • calmomcalmom 20489 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think that 568 group thing is more PR than reality. My daughter got a much better financial aid offer from Barnard (not on the list) than Chicago. I have asked Barnard financial aid several times whether they cap home equity and they keep telling me "no" -- but I can't make the math come out right without a cap -- (I'm in California and have lived in the same house for almost 20 years)

    I think the only thing to do is apply to some financial safeties and then simply send out applications to whatever colleges you would like to attend and see what they offer in the spring.

    I have no idea how Chicago treated our home equity, by the way. According to the online "institutional methodology" calculators, an uncapped equity would have resulted in an EFC in excess of $30K -- Chicago's financial aid left us on the hook for about $24K -- but I never talked to them because the Barnard offer was so much better so for us it really was a moot issue.
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  • windywindy 152 replies5 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    The 568 designation is a very real issue based on anti-trust law and the direct result of threatened government action regarding the annual meeting that in the past was held by these institutions (and other practices) that was used to minimize competition for the best students (collusion). It is often the case that schools will "pay up" for top students that would otherwise attend elite schools. Increases admission stats, gets a student that the school really desires. That is not a bad thing and often the reduced cost more than compensates for the difference in schools. I believe Barnard is need based but not need blind. Competition between schools that offer merit aid and those that are need based is also quite common. Many believe that need based is a more democratic form of aid. Merit based often rewards the more privileged student in that they attend better schools, have more resources, can afford tutors, test prep, etc.
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Actually Barnard is need-blind, at least as of this statement on 4/9/07:

    "..Barnard remains a 'need-blind' institution for financial aid purposes, and no student is ever turned away for lack of funds" Joanne N. Kwong, media relations director for Barnard, said in a written statement. "

    In our case, "blind" is indeed the operative phrase, though the other LAC we are paying for needs spectacles even moreso. Fortunately for calmom they saw better in her case.

    We have "some" cash, which will be totally taken by the colleges, but no home equity whatsoever. And a nominally high-paying job, which in actuality just barely makes ends meet in this high-cost environment. And which will not last forever, if the past is any indication.

    Personally, I think it would have been nice if they took into account that we will eventually need all of that cash and more to buy a place to live somewhere, once the salary income is not coming in. But I digress..
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  • entomomentomom 22547 replies1111 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Many believe that need based is a more democratic form of aid. Merit based often rewards the more privileged student in that they attend better schools, have more resources, can afford tutors, test prep, etc."

    In theory need based aid may be more democratic, but it's a whole different matter in practice.
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  • calmomcalmom 20489 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Monydad, they all use basically the same formula, which means that income is assessed up to a rate of about 45% whereas assets are assessed at under 6% -- so $100K of parental cash in the bank would only increase EFC by about $5600 (even less, due to an asset protection allowance) -- but $100K in earnings is going to result in a much higher EFC.

    I'm not offering an opinion on overall fairness -- obviously it is a problem if the high income has not been consistent and cannot be relied on. But the point is, there is a formula. It certainly is not being "blind" to one students need but open to another's -- though as time goes on I am learning a few tricks in terms of how to maximize my aid eligibility by being proactive in informing Barnard's financial aid office about "special circumstances". For example, I'm self-employed and I've learned that Barnard will add back some of my schedule C deductions, but I can avoid having them do that that if I submit explanatory material that justifies the business expense.
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    calmom: I know I say this so often, but please allow me to say again, you are a whiz at financial aid issues. You are awesome.

    monydad: You are awesome, too, giving your daughters these experiences at potential hardship to yourself.
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  • entomomentomom 22547 replies1111 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    While I'd like to believe that "they all use basically the same formula", our experience with HYPBrown & Amherst last year did not bear this out. Our calculated need for these schools ranged from zero to 20k per year. And believe me, my financial situation is about as straightforward as they come: salary, home equity and savings, period. All of these schools got exactly the same financial information, but came up with as much as 80k difference over four years.

    IMO, professional judgement influenced by the size of the school's endowment and degree of competition for the student with peer schools trumps a formula when it comes to Profile schools. This is just our experience, so YMMV. But I think hearing from families with a variety of experiences with need only schools is helpful to show that FA is not necessarily predictable, even when dealing with these highly selective schools. It only goes to emphasize the need to strategize a list based on financial as well as academic factors.
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    entomom: That is really interesting to me because our packages (in a much more complicated finacial situation) didn't differ more than $3000.00 across a wide spectrum of colleges from Bard to Brown (like those B's), with Bard's being the absolute lowest although it is the least competitive. Got to figure size of endowment is the issue there. They really struggled but even with loans offer was lower than the rest, but not by more than 3K.
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  • bluejay79bluejay79 72 replies15 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    Calmom: can you please explain the "income is assessed at a rate of up to about 45%" phrase.? Just curious...I assume this is after a series of "adjustments". Thanks.
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  • entomomentomom 22547 replies1111 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    mythmom,
    Yes, I definitely think endowment was a large factor in our case too. Two of the schools said we had 0 need, not hard to guess which ones those were :).

    We are definitely on the cusp of fiancial need, so I suspected that some schools would find that we have no need, but the range was more than I ever expected.

    I think it's great to hear everyone's experiences with FA from need only schools, as it is not as cut and dry as some people think. The calculators are good for getting a ballpark figure, but they can be far from the final word.
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