Grants at Minnesota privates far exceed national average
The average size of the grants and scholarships awarded by Minnesota’s Private Colleges is significantly larger than the national average, based on a new analysis. And the large majority of these grants go to meet student need.
The average institutional grant per full-time equivalent (FTE) at Minnesota Private College Council member institutions was $15,451 in 2011-12. That compares to $11,810 per FTE for nonprofit colleges nationally (in 2012 dollars), according the College Board Trends in Student Aid 2013 report. That’s a $3,641 difference, 31% higher than the national average.
An area of continuing interest is how aid provided by institutions is divided between need-based aid and aid based on merit or others factors. To examine aid distribution more closely, the College Board report broke things down differently, instead looking at financial aid grants meeting need (whether they are need-based or merit-based) and grants exceeding need.Seventy-two percent of the institutional aid provided by Minnesota’s private nonprofit colleges helps meet the financial need of students. This was the same as the national average for private nonprofit four-year institutions, according to the recent College Board report.
Here are some details about the methodology that the College Board used — and what the Minnesota Private College Council found in analyzing data for member institutions.
- Just because a grant meets need does not always mean it is a need-based grant. Financial aid packages can be made up of a combination of merit and need-based grants, and both types of grants can go toward meeting need. For example, if a student has been determined to have $15,000 in need and received an academic scholarship of $5,000 and a need-based grant of $10,000, her need is being met by a combination of merit and need-based grants.
- Need was determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial circumstances determine a student’s or family’s ability to pay for college, which is known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The difference between the cost of attending the institution and the EFC is the student’s need. (Federal, state and institutional grant aid, as well as loans, can all be used in a student’s financial aid package in order to meet need.)
- Some experts in the field of higher education believe that the FAFSA calculation can overestimate the ability of families to pay for college and therefore underestimate the financial need of students. For this reason, a college or university may award aid that goes beyond the federal definition of need based on a student’s individual circumstances to better meet the true financial need of the student.
- At Minnesota’s private colleges, 24% of institutional grants exceeded the federally defined need of students or were awarded to students who did not file the FAFSA. Grants that exceed need include merit aid, which recognizes academic achievement. It also includes students whose ability to pay was overestimated by the FAFSA and thus were awarded aid that went beyond their federally defined need.
The grants and scholarships provided by Minnesota’s private colleges are key to how students from all income levels can continue to afford an education at these institutions. In the most recent year for which we have data, financial aid provided by Minnesota’s private colleges totaled more than $460 million in the school year. That’s about five times as much as the federal and state governments together give to our students through the Pell and State Grant programs.