There’s an interesting article in Today’s Inside Higher Education newsletter on “needs blind” admissions policies. While promising applicants that their financial need will not be considered in admissions decisions, most public and private colleges then offer financial aid packages with considerable “gaps” between need and actual costs.
Further, different groups of students (athletes, legacies, under-represented ethnic groups) are more likely to receive different sorts of financial aid packages (more grants and scholarships, fewer loans) than other students — and first-generation students are infrequently targeted for either full financial aid for for more favorable “packages”.
And finally, in these times of soaring college costs, the shift from needs-based to merit-based financial aid continues:
In 1994, when NACAC conducted a similar survey, colleges reported that 27 percent of their institutional aid funds were purely merit-based and 66 percent based on need. In the current survey, 43 percent of institutional aid funds were based on factors other than need, compared to 49 percent need-based.
At my institution, there is speculation that tuition will soar in the coming years under withering state budget cuts.
I’m not at all clear how, given headlines like that in the paper and the complex and contradictory system of financial aid, first-generation students can even imagine themselves getting in and getting through.