College Aid Increasingly Goes Toward Students’ Financial Need, Study Finds

Despite concerns among college-access advocates that a growing amount of financial aid goes to students who don’t need it, both private and public four-year institutions spent a greater share of their aid dollars meeting student need in 2007-8 than they did in 2000-1, according to a report released Wednesday by the College Board.

In that time period, the tuition discount rate — defined as average institutional aid per student divided by the sticker price of tuition and fees — has dropped slightly at public colleges, but has risen among private colleges, according to the report, "Tuition Discounting: Institutional Aid Patterns at Public and Private Colleges and Universities, 2000-01 to 2008-09."

It looks at data through 2007-8 and preliminary figures from the following year that show how colleges are using general institutional grant aid, which excludes athletic scholarships and tuition waivers, such as for children of faculty members. Unlike another tuition-discounting report put out by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the College Board’s report looks at the overall discount rate, not that for first-year students.

Aid Meeting Need
Between 2000-1 and 2007-8, the share of grant aid used to meet need grew from 69 percent to 73 percent at private four-year colleges, though early data from the 2008-9 year suggest a decline that year, to 71 percent. At public four-year colleges, the share of grant aid meeting need grew from 44 percent to 54 percent during the same period, and is projected to rise slightly, to 60 percent, for 2008-9.

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