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Five Questions to Ask: Financial Aid

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  1. For the public universities in your region, how has the percentage of in-state students enrolled changed compared to out-of-state students over the past five years? How has the percentage of international students changed? Many universities are aggressively recruiting students from out of state or overseas because they pay higher tuition and generally are ineligible for financial aid.
  2. For private colleges, what are their policies regarding “need-blind” admissions?As more of these schools have become crunched for money — especially those that are smaller and not-so highly ranked — some are considering abandoning this long-held practice of college admissions.
  3. What’s the average debt burden for graduates of the colleges and universities you cover? How has that amount changed in recent years and why?
  4. What’s the average “net price” students pay at the colleges you cover? How has that number changed in the past five years? While rising sticker prices tend to generate a lot of news coverage, the net price is more relevant for students hoping to enroll there. Examining how much the net price is changing can generate articles that unravel the mechanics behind college costs.
  5. How has the amount of “merit aid” the schools you cover offer changed in the past five years?  Colleges tend to offer non-need-based scholarships both to attract students whose grades and test scores might raise the school’s academic reputation and who — over the long-term — might essentially subsidize the costs of financial aid for other students. These can be tricky numbers to nail down but are worth looking into.