Do LACs that do NOT offer Merit Aid, always stick to the EFC? Or do they sometimes take into account where you live and other metrics and perhaps offer more than EFC and call it Need-Based Aid?

Do LACs that do NOT offer Merit Aid, always stick to the EFC? Or do they sometimes take into account where you live and other metrics and perhaps offer more than EFC and call it Need-Based Aid?

Our experience with the 10 LACs that D20 applied to was that they all required the CSS Profile and they all use the data from the Profile to run their own calculations using the data as they see fit. Some schools look at home equity as something that can be tapped to pay the bill but others did not.

Run the NPC at each school. They ask for the data they want and apply their calculations to spit out a number. As long as parents are not divorced or remarried, do not own a business or real estate beyond the primary residence, and have “average” assets for their income level, then the calculations should be pretty accurate. At least that was the case for us.

One last thing: if you are referring to the EFC from the FAFSA, you should know that the amount given is used to determine Pell Grant eligibility. It really is not to be seen as they amount of the check you will write. In the future, it will have a new name - the SAI (student aid index).


Not all colleges meet 100% of need. Many:

  1. will hold the EFC against you if it’s too high - i.e. need aware…they just won’t accept you.

  2. don’t promise to meet need - only the elite and then a few other second level proimse to.

Each has their own formula…hence the CSS…and each looks at assets differently, etc.

Good luck.

Here’s Every College That Offers 100% Financial Aid (

Unfortunately, I don’t think schools take into account where you live when they calculate your EFC. It is the lament of many middle class families that live in the Northeast or on the West Coast that what looks like a very comfortable income (often resulting in little/no need-based aid) isn’t really as much as you think because of the high cost of living. For many families that puts a lot of schools that award limted/no merit aid out of the running.

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I have not heard of any LACs or universities offering “better than EFC” need based financial aid. For us at least the NPCs tended to be very accurate.

There are a lot of LACs in the US. Some offer merit based aid. We got quite good merit based aid at some small universities in Canada (Canada does not use the term “liberal arts college”).

I have seen many cases where what the university thought was affordable was pretty clearly not affordable. Some issues which make it more likely that the university’s or LAC’s view of “affordable” will not really be affordable would be if the parents are retired, divorced, or own a small business, farm, or rental property. Living in a very expensive area also does not help.

We got much better aid than our EFC at a top 15 LAC, which does not award merit aid. It was $12k better than a top 30 private university that meets 100% of demonstrated need.

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That’s great and that is exactly what i was thinking. we have a younger child in a private high school and he receives a lot of financial aid - more that the suggested parent contribution from the financial aid forms. I think this is due to the fact that we live in a high-cost region. this school only offers need-based aid, but still they gave us much more that the form suggested. Was wondering if it might be the same at some of these LACs that do not offer merit aid. sounds like that was true in your case.

I think the varying amounts of FA from one meets need college to another is not really due to taking into account where you live. It’s just that each school calculates need differently. Both my kids applied to several meets need LACs and my S added in some top 20 universities. The financial aid offered varied widely and since we couldn’t really rely on NPCs for accurate estimates, we just had to wait for the offers (but still tried to get some idea ahead of time).


You need to understand…boarding schools and prep schools have a very different bar for providing need based aid than colleges.

Colleges do not use your high cost of living area or anything like that to determine need based aid. They just don’t. Prep and boarding schools can do this.

College need based aid is determined by your parents incomes and assets. Not by the cost of living where you reside.


Each college may calculate its own EFC for you that is different from the FAFSA EFC.

So use each college’s net price calculator to get a financial aid estimate.