One of the myths about a college education is that only the rich can afford it. Even at the lower end of the cost scale, a four-year education could mean an investment of more than $30,000. Fortunately, there is help for those who may have trouble making financial ends meet.
Families are usually expected to make the first contribution toward college costs. There are, however, many sources and types of financial assistance for families of all means. Even families with substantial incomes can benefit from special payment plans designed to accommodate cashflow problems. In reality, students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds receive financial assistance. No student should be discouraged from pursuing a college education for financial reasons.
Financial aid is need-based at Franklin & Marshall. "Need" is a relative term when applied to college costs; almost everyone believes that she/he needs assistance. In fact, most college students do qualify for some type of need-based assistance. Your "need" will be defined as the difference between a college's cost and the amount your family is able to pay. The greater the difference, the greater your "need."
"Need-based" financial aid typically comes in three forms: grants, loans and campus job opportunities. The amounts of each will vary, with most colleges opting to offer the loan and campus job first. These forms of aid are referred to as "self-help" since the student has the opportunity to help him/herself meet the cost. If you show a low need, it is conceivable that a college may meet most or all of that need with "self-help."
The remaining portion of the financial aid award is referred to as the "gift" portion. It typically includes College endowed grant monies that makes up the difference between the self-help and the overall demonstrated need. This is considered "free" money because it does not need to be repaid.
Important Tips: Adhere to application deadlines and do not expect all aid awards to look alike. Some colleges will "sweeten the pot" with more gift aid than self-help for attractive candidates. Conversely, admitted students who are not quite as strong may find that they are expected to take on more self-help.
You may also find that some colleges will acknowledge your financial need, but come short of meeting your full need with aid or they may deny you aid altogether. Before accepting any offer of aid, make sure that the offer is not subject to change after you enroll and that you understand the requirements for renewal in subsequent years.
Franklin & Marshall is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of admitted students. Roughly 50% of our students receive some form of need-based aid in grants, loans, work allowance, or some combination of the above.