Surprising reasons why affluent qualify for financial aid

October 15, 2008

The surprising reason why high-earners will qualify for thousands in college financial aid.  

You may not believe this, but please, read on.

AZ College Planning constantly talks about how even millionaires should apply for college financial aid, even if they think they won't qualify.

Before I get to the story I read today, let me give you a little background on college admissions. Background that you'll never hear anywhere else.

I met with an affluent family who told me their story. They went to orientation at their daughter’s new college and at the end of the orientation the parents and students were told to talk with a financial aid officer. This family did and the FAO (financial aid officer) asked them a few questions about income and assets. Coming to a conclusion, flat out told them not apply for aid cause “y’ain’t getting none.” So they never did. However after I reviewed their information they were indeed eligible for aid but because they never applied they never got any.

Are you familiar with US News and World Report? This magazine is at the top of the heap when it comes to ranking colleges and universities. 

I think it is kind of funny that one ranking poll has one particular college on top and different polls from different organizations such as the Wall Street Journal or Forbes have different schools on top for similar parameters.

Many admissions heads obsess over their rankings, particularly the colleges in the fourth, third and even second tiers, trying to figure out how to move up in rankings.  Better rankings equals more applicants, more enrolled and the ability to charge higher tuition and fees. Bottom line for the school is the bottom line.

Like it or not, that's the way it is.

Many ambitious, upwardly-mobile colleges will do all sorts of things to improve their standing with US News. Some offer "bribes" to good students by way of merit scholarships to pry them away from Ivy League or other highly competitive schools.  This funding is doled out without regard to the family's financial picture.  And it's heaped upon students with grades and scores that are not "Ivy-caliber", to-boot!

Now check out what Baylor University did.  Apparently, the SAT's of last year's incoming freshman class was worse than the previous year's.  This would look bad in US News.

So Baylor did something creative to counter their impending drop in the rankings.  They bribed their accepted, incoming freshmen to re-take the SAT! Call it what you will.

Yep, you read that right! Baylor offered a $300 book credit to any freshman who sat for the SAT again.  And, if the student increased his or her score by 50 points, there was another grand in it for them.  About 177 qualified for even more scholarship funding. That is a minimum of $53,100 in cold hard cash for these students to apply to their college bill. Nice!

Of course, Baylor denies they created their SAT contest because of the US News rankings. 

My point is the college financial aid game works in ways that non-insiders can't possibly understand.  Even parents who make "deep" six figure, or higher, incomes can save thousands off college costs, if they know the rules of the game. J.D. Wyczalek founder of has been quoted as saying “If you know the financial aid and college admission rules, you can stack the deck in your favor. Ethically and legally.”

So take away two points from this note - do your research about what schools over this kind of aid (and what their standards are) and do NOT blow off applying for financial aid if you think you earn too much money, because you never know!

Be sure to register for one of AZ College Planning's free workshops for residence of Arizona. Dismiss all the myths and learn the truth first hand. J.D. has been noted as being entertaining, enlightening and informational. Click the link on the right and register now.

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