How do Financial Aid Ratings work?

Our rating system evaluates the relative attractiveness of an institution's need-based and merit-based financial aid programs and assigns to each a rating from 0 to 5 stars.  

Need-based aid.  The need-based aid rating is based on several factors:

  • The percentage of undergraduates with need who were awarded aid
  • The percentage of demonstrated need that was met
  • The percentage of the financial aid package that comes from grants (vs. self-help and loans)
  • The total cost of attendance of the institution
  • The graduation rate
  • The attractiveness of the program relative to the other schools covered in College Kickstart

Merit-based aid.  The merit-based financial aid rating is based on:

  • The percentage of undergraduates without demonstrated financial need who were awarded merit aid
  • The average merit package awarded
  • The total cost of attendance of the institution
  • The graduation rate
  • The attractiveness of the program relative to the other schools covered in College Kickstart

Where can I see the ratings?

Plan Highlights Need

Both the need and merit-based aid star ratings are visible in the Affordability section of the Details tab, as well as in Plan Highlights. For counselors, the ratings can also be seen by clicking on the need and merit-based aid icons in the Student Summaries section of the dashboard.

Things to keep in mind

  • Use for directional guidance.  These ratings are designed for you to use as directional guidance during the planning process.  Remember that the affordability data reported by the colleges is based on averages, not your particular financial situation.  You'll ultimately need to use the net price calculator for each college to get a more definitive assessment of financial aid likely to come your way.
  • Look for 4-5 star ratings.  Institutions with 4-5 star ratings rank in the top 20th percentile of schools we've evaluated and are likely to be best postitioned to address affordability constraints or the most generous with merit aid.  Note: for public institutions, the ratings are based on in-state tuition and cost of attendance.
  • Financial aid policies vary widely.  Colleges and universities vary widely in their approaches to financial aid.  Highly selective institutions will often earn 5 stars for need-based aid but 0 stars for merit-based aid because financial aid is only offered to students with demonstrated financial need.  On the other hand, while public universities feature low cost of attendance, they may receive low star ratings due to the portion of need-based financial aid that comes from self-help and loans.  And less selective private institutions may be weak on need-based aid but extremely generous with merit aid to attract talented students who can afford to pay full tuition.

We'd love to hear your feedback about our new financial aid ratings.  We hope it makes it easier to dial in on schools likely to meet affordability constraints or offer generous merit aid during the early stages of the college planning process.

 

 

 

 

 

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