Can you ever get "need-based" financial aid that reduces your cost to below EFC?

<p>I just did a rough EFC calculator, and came up with an EFC of about $35K (ouch!)</p>

<p>My son has very strong scores and will most likely make NM finalist, so he is assured merit aid some of the schools he is considering based on his stats. I'm wondering if is ever possible to get need-based aid, if merit aid alone would reduce the COA below our EFC.</p>

<p>For example, RIT's COA is around $40K and assuming he makes NM Semifinalist as we expect he will, he's guaranteed $15K+ in merit aid, leaving "only" $25K which is less than our EFC. Could he get any need-based aid there if he is already getting merit aid to reduce the price below our EFC? </p>

<p>Assuming we are going to fill out a FAFSA anyhow (we are) would we qualify for any loan programs that would have any advantages over just taking out private loans? I ask because we did a financial calculator for Drexel and it estimated that my S would get full tuition merit scholarships, and also estimated that he would get $5500 in Stafford loans even though the merit scholarships brought the cost per year well below our EFC. I assume those would be unsubsidized, so is there any advantage to getting them versus other loans? And would he really be eligible for the full $5500?</p>

<p>Also wondering about what to check off for the "are you planning to apply for need-based aid" question on the applications. My understanding is that you can check "no" if you're only using the FAFSA to get Stafford loans.</p>

<p>For a school where our S is assured of sufficient merit money or the COA is already low enough that we're already below our EFC, if the school is not need-blind, he's probably best off checking "no" for the finaid question, right? Of course there the "danger" that we missed something on the estimate, and our actual EFC comes out lower, or an institutional EFC would come out lower, and he'd miss out on some finaid he could qualify for if he says no. Since the schools for which this is a question are low match to safety schools, which is part of why he's assured merit aid at them, so perhaps he should just check anyhow? He'll have to check yes on his reaches anyhow, since he would not be getting merit aid. </p>

<p>There's no way we can actually come up with $35K/year, so something has to give here!</p>

<p>No you cannot get federal need based aid that takes you below the EFC. (though schools that require CSS may come up with a different EFC for institutional aid).</p>

<p>Merit aid can reduce your cost below the EFC though.</p>

<p>Anyone can get the Stafford loan. For a freshman the max is $5500 of which up to $3500 can be subsidized depending on need. If ther is no need then it is all unsubsidized. The benefit of an unsub Stafford - is in the student's name, does not require a credit check or a cosigner. Interest rate = 6.8%.</p>

<p>When you submit the FAFSA, an EFC will be computed. If the school uses the Profile, the school will compute a family contribution. If the school computes your family contribution to be $35,000 for the year, they will take the cost of attendance and subtract your EFC from that. The balance will be your NEED. Need based aid will be used to fill that amount ONLY...it will not be used to reduce your family contribution.</p>

<p>You also need to keep in mind that your EFC per FAFSA is the MINIMUM you will be expected to pay for college, not the maximum. MOST schools do not meet the full need (difference between COA and EFC). </p>

<p>Another thing...if your son gets merit aid, that aid (at most schools) will reduce your NEED. Therefore, your need based aid will be reduced. Usually schools reduce the self help need based aid first (loans/work study) and then school grants.</p>

<p>With an EFC of $35,000 for the year, the only federally funded aid your son will be eligible to receive will be a Stafford loan.</p>

<p>I wish I could be giving you better news. Many families find their EFC amount to be shocking.</p>

<p>With an outstanding profile, your son is probably a candidate for some of the top schools in the country. There are a number of those that are need blind AND guarantee to meet full need (they define the need usually through PROFILE which may or may not match the FAFSA EFC), For those schools, there is no reason to not apply for aid since applying for aid is not an impediment for admissions. Also most of these schools do not offer merit based aid, so there is no way you are going to get the $20K of need covered unless you borrow the entire amount. The few schools in this category that do have merit aid packages are super competitive and are true lottery tickets, as acceptance to some of these schools are. </p>

<p>Also in the category of highly selective schools are those that meet close to or all of need, but they are need aware in admissions. They do not like to accept those kids when they cannot meet their need because they feel that those kids would then not be able to attend, decreasing yield. At such schools some kids will be at a disadvantage at admissions if they have huge need. Those students who are still good "catches" will accepted on a need blind basis. It is the border line whatever %,at some school a small %, that will be assessed on a need aware basis. It makes no sense to me why you would apply to such schools and not apply for financial aid if you cannot the full cost of going there. Some of these schools have merit money as well, but those awards are very very competitive, and if your student is a good contender for those scholarships, you don't have to worry about him being in that pool of kids that will be subject to need aware policies because such eligibility would put him in the top echelon of applicants.</p>

<p>Then you have the schools where your son would be a candidate for merit money. Again, I don't see why you wouldn't apply for financial aid at those schools, because, if he is a candidate for the merit money, he would also be one of the preferred kids for financial aid.</p>

<p>When a student has need and is also a candidate for the merit scholarships, it becomes a tricky situation as to getting more money than the need. What often happens is that the student will get the merit aid if the amount is more than the financial need. That way the institutional EFC would be reduced for you. If the merit award is a full ride scholarship, then you have "made out" wiping out your EFC and need completely. If the school has a smaller merit award of, say, $10K that it gives your son, and it is a school that meets full need or decides to meet full need, then your financial aid package will be designed so that you would have to pay your full EFC. In your case, if the school COA is $55K, and son gets the $10k merit award, $45K is left to pay, so he would then get an aid package of $10K. That would not help you if you cannot pay your EFC of $10K. If you are lucky, the $10K would be in school grants. If not, it could be in the form of loans and workstudy, so that your son would not be able to borrow through the STafford, or work the hours to meet some of that EFC. All of this depends upon the school.</p>

<p>Really the way that you can be sure that your EFC would be lowered is if your son gets a very large merit award. Though I have heard of schools that do some merit within aid, I don't know which ones they are, and I have not heard of anyone making out big with double layering of aid and merit. They are usually integrated, unless the merit exceeds the need, in which case there is no need. </p>

<p>If anyone is aware of a school that will meet need and then also give a full school merit award on top of it, let us know. I don't know of any.</p>

<p>Sometimes schools may have merit within need awards that end up reducing EFC, but again, the awards are granted on a merit basis. That I have seen. Someone with an EFC of $35k, getting a financial aid scholarship (to get the award the student HAD to be eligible for fin aid) that exceeds the need figure. </p>

<p>As Swimcatsmom writes, you can get a need definition that is higher than what FAFSA calculates. For instance, Harvard gives very generous aid, and it is not unusual to get an institutional need figure that is greater than what FAFSA has given you. Then your fin aid award would reduce your EFC. Plus your son could use Staffords and work part time to meet the EFC as well.</p>

<p>***
For example, RIT's COA is around $40K and assuming he makes NM Semifinalist as we expect he will, he's guaranteed $15K+ in merit aid, leaving "only" $25K which is less than our EFC. Could he get any need-based aid there if he is already getting merit aid to reduce the price below our EFC? ***</p>

<p>NO, because at that point, you would have no need. Your son could take an unsub student loan for $5500. </p>

<p>**
*
For a school where our S is assured of sufficient merit money or the COA is already low enough that we're already below our EFC, if the school is not need-blind, he's probably best off checking "no" for the finaid question, right? ***</p>

<p>What school gives big merit, but is not "need blind"????</p>

<p>There are only a few ways to pay less than EFC....</p>

<p>1) Going to an instate public that has a COA of less than your EFC.</p>

<p>or </p>

<p>2) Accept a merit scholarship that is soooo big that it covers all of "need" and then cuts into the EFC amount.</p>

<p>For instance....</p>

<p>$40k COA
$35k EFC
$5k "need"</p>

<p>$40k COA
$25k merit scholarship
$15k is what you'll pay - effectively reducing your EFC to $15k</p>

<p>Since your son is a likely NMF, there are schools that would give him full tuition or more scholarships.</p>

<p>**
*
There's no way we can actually come up with $35K/year, so something has to give here! ***</p>

<p>How much can you likely pay each year? If we know how much you can pay, then we can make some recommendations. :)</p>

<p>
[quote]
If anyone is aware of a school that will meet need and then also give a full school merit award on top of it, let us know.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>There are some (not a lot ) of schools that allow "stacking" of financial aid awards (needbased and merit) up to the cost of attendance. When DD applied to U of South Carolina, they allowed this. So if you received a merit scholarship from the school but then got other aid (either need based from the school...e.g.Pell grant or the like) or got an outside scholarship or a departmental scholarship, you could accept them all without a reduction to any aid given by the school UP TO the cost of attendance.</p>

<p>This is not done at most schools.</p>

<p>So, what do people do with an outrageous EFC? (We'll meet with a financial adviser to make sure we're not missing something that would reduce it, but assuming that it's right...) Our state school is a fairly poor fit for our S, and we don't live close enough for him to live at home. He's looking at technical schools near (within 8 hours drive) home. MIT, RPI, WPI, RIT... and even though he's eligible for a good deal of merit aid at all but MIT, and it looks like some need-based aid there, none of them even cover half of the COA, leaving a substantial payment. Are there good options we're missing? His current interest is Computer Game Design, with a heavy emphasis on the Computer Science side, but he's also quite interested in other things like Chemical engineering and pharmacology :) How much can a student be expected to earn either at a summer job or in a co-op position? He's looking into outside scholarships as well. I don't know how realistic it is to expect to get a game-changing amount of money that way. So anyhow, we're freaking out a bit here!</p>

<p>If your EFC per FAFSA is $35,000, your income is in the over $100,000 range (or so). If that is the case, this is the type of EFC students in your income range see. Yes...it can be a shocker!!</p>

<p>Colleges assume that you will be paying for school out of past income (savings), current income, and future income (loans). </p>

<p>What you need to figure out is what you CAN contribute annually to your son's college education and then look realistically at colleges. If money is going to be limited, please tell your child this NOW...so that he will know this will be a factor in his final choice. Certainly he can apply to some schools and hope that the money will come his way...but he needs to understand your family's financial limitations if there are any.</p>

<p>You say that your state school is not a good fit for your son. Most states have more than one state school (are you from Vermont as your screenname implies). Why are all of your public universities a bad fit for your son?</p>

<p>As hard as this might be...take deep breath and start looking around at all the options. If he is really a competitive admit for MIT, then he actually might get decent merit aid at a school where his stats are at the tippy top of the admissions pool. Read the thread by momfromtexas...a classic on CC...who found near or at full rides for both of her kiddos. Lots of good advice there.</p>

<p>*If anyone is aware of a school that will meet need and then also give a full school merit award on top of it, let us know. *</p>

<p>I don't think so. </p>

<p>I'm not sure if South Carolina does this anymore, either, since it doesn't meet need for OOS students. Yes, if a student qualified for Pell, then he'd get that anyway, but the OPs son won't qualify for Pell. </p>

<p>And, yes, maybe South Carolina (and some other schools) will let you stack merit scholarships on top of each other - even if they exceed need - but if those merit scholarships total to an amount that is more than need, than need based aid goes away. </p>

<p>The problem is this....</p>

<p>A school isn't going to give you need when the need is already covered with a merit scholarship. FA packages are usually put together AFTER merit scholarships are doled out. So, a school would see that your EFC is $35k and that your need is $XXk. The school would then see that your need was covered with a scholarship that was equal or greater than $XX. At that point, there would be no "need" to give you. </p>

<p>My kids' scholarships exceed "need", but the school lets them stack their scholarships so that they cover almost all of their costs.</p>

<p>ASSURED SCHOLARSHIPS.....$$$ CC Important links to Merit Scholarships given for stats... </p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/848226-important-links-automatic-guaranteed-merit-scholarships.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/848226-important-links-automatic-guaranteed-merit-scholarships.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Northeastern might be another one to add to your list. </p>

<p>I agree with thumper1 that you need to figure out what you CAN pay and go from there. Since it looks like your son will need merit aid, he will need to apply to a good number of schools.</p>

<p>From our experience, outside scholarships are nice, but the amounts are usually small and they are often only for Freshman year. Definitely apply for some, but don't count on them to meet a large portion of college expenses. The biggest money is usually from the colleges directly through merit scholarships.</p>

<p>What do people do when they get an outrageous EFC? Well, alot of us get EFC figures that we cannot meet given our past savings, current income and ability to take out loans to repay in the future. What we do is look for a good financial/admissions safety school that we know we can afford. Usually that is a local state school within commuting distance. Maybe a community college. If you are lucky, there may be a good state school that fits that bill. If you have a good student, and he is very likely to get accepted there, that is the safety. If you can afford a "sleep away" state college or a private school with affordable tuition and within commuting distance, either of those can fit the need as well. That is what we are doing. We have a several nearby options that are well within what we can afford. We also can afford to send our son to any of our state schools without financial aid, loans even on a boarding basis. Those are what we can afford without him having to contribute. any money or borrow. If he wants to go to some of the more expensive private schools in our area and commute, those costs are even over what we can comfortably pay, so he would have to take out some Stafford loans, work, dig into his own savings and supplement what we can afford. These schools form the core of his list.</p>

<p>We then look at other schools where the COA is what we can afford along with what son is able to contribute. Some OOS publics fit that picture. Some pretty nice ones too. So some of those go on the list. We then look at some private schools where he is likely to get enough merit money to lower the price so that it is affordable with what he pitches into the pot and what we can afford. Those are the financial reach schools for him. But some of those schools do have some automatic scholarships or he truly may have stats high enough that he is likely to get an award, so they are worth trying. </p>

<p>Other schools just don't make our list. Our current son did not apply to any colleges where there was no possibility of some merit award. In a few cases, he did not get any scholarships even though he did get accepted. Into the garbage can went those acceptances, since it was not possible to meet $50K+ even with us and him putting past, present and future monies towards the cost. What was left were affordable schools. He got a bit of bonus in that he got some outside scholarship money that made some schools just over the affordability line. His favorite school was still short, not by a whole lot, but it would mean we would have to borrow money. He called the school, which had given him a merit award and told them they were his first choice but the amount was short what we could pay. Given his other choices, which he told them, the college upped the merit award. Still a little short, but we were going to swallow it. But then his outside scholarship was upped, so we just squeaked over the affordability line. </p>

<p>I think we would have borrowed the additional small amount since he so liked features of this school, and the discrepancey was not huge. But it was nice to meet the financial goal. Whether you are going to waver in the end or not, it is still important to set an amount so that you know what is truly affordable and comfortable for you. </p>

<p>You have some advantage in this situation with a student that has stats that make him attractive for some merit money and some good merit within need awards. That is what you can pursue along with some back up schools that you know are affordable. The way to pay the outrageous EFC is by going into your and son's savings, budgeting an amount out of your income by cutting back and for son to work summers and during the school year, and then for both you and son to borrow what you can reasonably afford to repay for the remainder. Any more than that has to come from the school in the form of financial and/or merit money. We knew up front that we would not get any financial aid with our EFC so only the merit money was a possible factor. Also go for some outside scholarships, though we did not get a great return from that out of 3 kids going to college. We did luck out with the third one with just enough to make things doable.</p>

<p>You're in a great situation compared to most, your son has the stats for lots of merit aid. The down side is he might not have his pick of his favorite schools, the up side is that he will have options which most who can not afford their EFC don't.</p>

<p>You're probably not missing anything, in my experience most upper middle class families are shocked by what colleges think they can pay.</p>

<p>University of Vermont feels like a party school to our S, and he prefers the environment of a technical school, but their Honors college is probably still his best bet. Castleton and Johnson are 4th tier schools, which don't seem like a good fit for a student with S's abilities/stats. </p>

<p>We should take a closer look at VT Tech, but again it seems like a lower caliber of school than what would be a "fit" for him academically. He's <em>way</em> above their middle 50% to the point where we wonder if he'd find many academic peers there. It may sound snobbish, but we'd like him to have the opportunity of being somewhere where there's a substantial core of kids "on his level" and even some who are smarter :)</p>

<p>The problem is that those schools that are most likely to give the most money are usually the ones where your son is in the upper echelons. That is why the school is willing to pay for your son to go there. The trick is to find the best possible school for him that is willing to pay enough so that he can afford to go there. SOmetimes you will miss and he won't get the money or maybe even the acceptance to some of his "reaches". As I said earlier, my current college kid didn't get a dime from two of his choices. He was also rejected from three of his schools. But the rest all gave him varying amounts or were within our price range because of low sticker price. He could have made money on one school that offered full ride+. He then had varying awards and prices right up to the $50K+ schools that accepted him but he did not win any of their merit money. One OOS public school that just made our cost criteria also had a great merit award that my son thought he might get. Nope. The school took him but didn't give him any money. It was still just about doable, however. </p>

<p>My current high schooler will not have the options that his brother or your son will have because his stats are not that high. Large merit awards are highly unlikely in his case without going into schools that he feels are "lower" calibers. We are also concerned about the atmosphere of such schools and the lack of amenities. Still we are perusing them, and have found some that look pretty good upon careful examination.</p>

<p>Thanks for all the replies. We will figure this out, just a momentary panic at seeing that EFC. To be honest, I don't know what we can (and are willing to) afford. (Yes, I know, we need to figure that out now and communicate with our son!) Out of savings and current income, somewhere in the $10K - $15K range. I'm not sure what his earning potential will be for summers and/or co-ops plus a small amount of work during the school year. (He's at a program he paid to attend this summer, so no summer earnings available for freshman year.) I'm not sure how much it makes sense for us and/or him to take loans to pay for his education. I want him to be able to go to a school that will be a good fit for him and provide him with good opportunities for his future -- how to put a price tag on that -- I'm not sure. We can probably qualify for additional loans if that is what makes sense.</p>

<p>Northeastern is on his list, but lower than the "pure" technical schools. I just looked and their merit offerings are better than I remembered. So it may move up when the offers start rolling in and we see how much everything will cost. :) Drexel will probably end up being a financial safety for him as well. He hasn't visited yet (and it's a bit farther away than we'd like) but it has some nice looking programs on paper and he will likely qualify for a full tuition merit scholarship. We've been looking at the list of places that offer "full rides" but haven't yet found one that seems to be a good candidate for S.</p>

<p>Unfortunately none of our state schools are withing commuting range. We live close to Bennington college, but it's about as far from a fit as could be imagined. :)</p>

<p>MIT is a long shot (but then isn't it always). He has the grades and test scores to put him at or above the top of the middle 50%, but his ECs and community service are not exceptional. And even if they meet full financial need, unless they compute a much nicer number than $35K I don't think it's realistic for him to attend anyhow. So do you even apply on the long shot chance that it somehow becomes affordable?</p>

<p>Look for MIT's online institutional family contribution calculator or if it is not available, call MIT financial aid office and ask for a formula so you can get some idea if you can even begin to afford the school. Most schools will gladly give you the information. Some of the most selective schools are more generous that FAFSA formulas, so you might get a bit more from them. If he can work a little during the school year, particularly second semester senior year and the after senior year summer, that's a little money that he can contribute. I did not want my kids working first semester, but if he gets a handle on things, a job for 6-12 hours a week can really help. If he works at the cafeteria or other eatery, he could also get the benefit of some free meals. </p>

<p>Does Vermont have reciprocity with other New England state schools? Also RPI is a good tech school that has some nice merit awards. SUNY Buffalo has excellent tech/engineering departments and offers qualified OOS kids some very nice merit money--look at their web site. Pitt has the Chancellors scholarships for those that meet the criteria, and their honors college has an excellent reputation. Cal Tech and Harvey Mudd have merit money as well as good financial aid along with being out of area and probably very interested in a Vermonter. Georgia Tech has the prestigious Presidential awards that my son did not get, but yours might. Also look at Webb institue, the Coast Guard Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy as well as the big three academies. If engineering is a possibility, look at Olin (free) and Cooper Union (also free). Rose Kettering has great co-op opportunities. Colorado school of Mines is also a good strong school that would maybe pay his way. Many of the Southern flagships have strong tech departments and some generous scholarship money for top students. </p>

<p>No reason why he can't throw a bunch of reaches in his mix, once he has some good possibilities lined up.</p>

<p>Thanks for all those suggestions cptofthehouse -- we'll check them out. RPI is definitely already on the list. I can't find info on their merit scholarships online though. My son declined to be considered for the medal because his HS wanted kids to commit to going there if they got the medal, and he wasn't ready to do that. But we've heard that you can get similar amounts of merit aid anyhow. But again that's only $15K against a COA over $50K, sigh.</p>

<p>Olin isn't free anymore :( They are only giving out half-tuition scholarships now, which sadly leaves a NET COA of $38,693! My S1 thought it was too small (and he's not committed to engineering) but it could be a great fit for S2 (especially if they somehow manage to go back to offering full tuition!)</p>

<p>Oh, dear. My info is dated. Son2 who has been out of college for a year had classmates who looked at Olin, and it was free then. </p>

<p>URochester is also generous with awards. Case Western is one that he should check out. Stetson in Florida is a hidden gem of a school. Virginia Tech was reasonably priced once upon a time, and may give merit money as well. TCNJ has gotten a strong following from my son's school. Lafayette College is excellent and gives merit/aid packages. If I think of any more I'll let you know.</p>

<p>Sigh..is right. Just how I feel. Many of us are in the same situation that you are. Join the club.</p>

<p>this coming school year is the first year that Olin is not offering full tuition. (It was never "free" since room and board was not covered, but fairly affordable!)</p>

<p>Yes, Webb and Cooper Union are the same way. Not free, because of room and board expenses, but free tuition which make them affordable to more people.</p>