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"Preferential Packaging" What is it?

NightingaleNightingale Registered User Posts: 561 Member
edited October 2007 in Parents Forum
Can someone please tell me what preferential packaging is? I have heard it used in regard to financial and merit aid. I get the feeling it may be when colleges co-mingle different types of aid and scholarships to make the cost of attendance a bit easier for preferred candidates.. but I don't know for sure.
Post edited by Nightingale on

Replies to: "Preferential Packaging" What is it?

  • ChedvaChedva Super Moderator Posts: 29,816 Super Moderator
    The school will weigh the financial aid package more heavily towards grants and fewer loans/work study. Here's a definition from Muhlenberg College:
    A preferential financial aid package includes a far greater percentage of grant aid than self-help (loans and work). Colleges have discretion over how much grant aid they choose to award a student. So, a college can award a bigger grant to a student they would really like to enroll. In some cases, the total of grant from the college and the loans the student is entitled to may exceed the student's financial need. ("Need" is the cost of attendance—tuition, room, board, books, travel and expenses—minus what a family is able to pay.) . . .
    Students who are admitted but in the bottom half of the admitted student group will probably receive a package that is built from self-help up. That is, the college will award the student's entitlements and work first and then see how much grant it will take to reach the student's full need.
    Other schools may define it slightly differently, but I think this is pretty straightforward.
  • fireflyscoutfireflyscout Registered User Posts: 5,443 Senior Member
    It's a way for need-based only colleges to add an element of merit to their financial aid offers - the top applicants will receive offers with minimal or no loans.
  • NightingaleNightingale Registered User Posts: 561 Member
    So these colleges like HPY, do give merit aid.. but on the sly. Is that right? So to entice top kids they turn what would be loans (for an average applicant) into grants for a highly sought after one, but still claim the don't give merit aid. Isn't that kind of disingenous?
  • lskinnerlskinner Registered User Posts: 914 Member
    So these colleges like HPY, do give merit aid.. but on the sly. Is that right? So to entice top kids they turn what would be loans (for an average applicant) into grants for a highly sought after one, but still claim the don't give merit aid. Isn't that kind of disingenous?

    My sense is that it's more of a tool to recruit blacks etc. than top students.
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    Many top schools give a straight forward numerical income cut off for no-loan packages. Princeton will be offering all no loan packages. These income cut offs have nothing to do with merit or URM status.

    Many high selective need based schools claim that the financial aid department operates independently of their admissions department and that the financial aid office has no knowledge of any particulars of the candidate.

    I don't know how true these claims are.
  • ChedvaChedva Super Moderator Posts: 29,816 Super Moderator
    Nightingale, it's not really "merit money" if you also must demonstrate need. The kid that Harvard wants most still won't get anything if the need isn't there. And the Ivies have been pretty well known to do the preferential packaging for a long time. (It's also part of how they and DIII schools recruit athletes, since they can't give athletic scholarships.) Now they (and other non-merit money schools) have just added a bit of publicity for their "low income, no loan" packages. That doesn't make it merit; that's based on need and income.

    We don't qualify for financial aid (not that we don't need it, but the formulae say otherwise). My d received merit scholarships at several of the schools she got into, but would have gotten nothing from the Ivies had she applied and been accepted. That's what differentiates merit aid from preferential packaging.

    I think the schools that are being disingenuous are the ones that say, "Yes, we give merit aid, but only if you also show financial need." Merit is merit and need is need and IMHO, never the twain should meet.
  • somemomsomemom Registered User Posts: 10,927 Senior Member
    We know a person who was an adcom in a well-reputed LAC/Ivyish school, and were told that essentially admissions categorises admits as A/B/C and fin aid may have the same EFC for you, not matter which pile you are in, but an A admit would have more grants & less self-help.

    I have also been told it is a bit of flexibility in schools, like and Ivy, where there are no athletic or academic scholarships- how they fulfill your need could indicate how much you are wanted and help them attract the kids they really really want.
  • dt123dt123 Registered User Posts: 1,178 Senior Member
    never the twain should meet

    Just to confuse things more, I have heard aid like this called "merit within need."

    My impression is that universities love to give aid like this. They have a limited number of "Dean's Scholarships" i.e., a budget of merit aid, they can give. But when the kid with Dean's Scholarship credentials comes along, who also can show a lot need, then they don't have to waste a Dean's on him and can get the same effect with need-based grant aid.
  • NightingaleNightingale Registered User Posts: 561 Member
    I have heard the term "merit within need" as well. So preferential packaging, in this case, would mean the poor kid with great scores for a scholarship gets need money instead and that Dean's Scholarship is freed up for a kid.. say who has parents with a high EFC.. yes?
  • dt123dt123 Registered User Posts: 1,178 Senior Member
    Yes. It is, however, almost impossible to predict what any university will do with any particular kid's (like yours) application. So if aid is important to you, the only thing to do is not get too attached to any institution going in, and use the shotgun approach with a wide variety of instutions with the hope that at least one will be acceptable at the end.
  • ChedvaChedva Super Moderator Posts: 29,816 Super Moderator
    Alternatively to the posted "merit within need" scenario is the other possibility (that we've read about a lot on these boards): A kid with substantial need is also awarded a merit scholarship, one that's given regardless of need. The scholarship itself does not meet the student's full calculated need. What effect does that scholarship have? Contrary to some people's impression, it does not reduce the EFC. Rather, it reduces the kid's need. The kid still gets the same amount of money, except some of it is in the form of merit aid. That kid may also get preferential packaging for the remainder, but not necessarily. The family's contribution remains the same. The FA that the kid would have gotten but for the merit scholarship is now available to some other kid with demonstrated need.
  • ST2ST2 Registered User Posts: 878 Member
    The school mine go to has 3 types of financial aid as follows:
    1. Merit Aid - Based only on merit (selection based on combo of stats, essays, recomendations, ECs, community service & interview at Scholars Weekend - very competetive). Given as scholarships and stipends. Requires separate application.
    2. Merit aid with need - Based on a combo of above criteria but also considering financial need. Does not require separate application - given in form of scholarships and stipends.
    3. Need based - Based only on financial need - given in form of scholarships, grants and loans. Usually a combo of any of the three.

    Students may receive any combo or variation of the above. Receiving money from one of the above catagories does not preclude receiving additional money from another catagory.
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