Originally Posted by intparent
Harvard and a very small number of other schools have such massive endowments that they COULD allow everyone to go for free. Say there are 3,000 colleges in the US (guessing), then 2,995 of them can't afford to do that. Most of the colleges that say they "meet need" do ask about your home equity on the CSS profile form. FAFSA only colleges do not look at home equity. But a lot of the colleges that do require the CSS (pretty much all the top colleges) won't tell you their exact equations for calculating need... so you can't know for sure.

Unless a college has a big enough endowment to cover everyone's expenses anyway, they want to make sure people don't have large assets they COULD tap for college. If you have a $750,000 house that is paid off, but only $100,000 in liquid assets, you can hardly blame colleges for taking that into account. It used to be that they didn't look at that... but every time people try to game the system (trying to get someone else to pay their college bills by doing things like investing in home equity that they thought wouldn't be considered), eventually the colleges that have to limit their Financial Aid distributions get wise and close the loophole. Which also tells you that the rules today for calculating financial aid may not be the rules in 5 or 10 years when your kids are actually applying.

Colleges that don't guarantee to "meet need" just gap you -- they give you some aid, and offer some federal loans. But they know perfectly well that your income and assets are not sufficient to pay the rest, and they expect you to take out private loans to cover that gap.

What intparent says in the post above is exactly what we've been finding, too-- as we have talked to colleges and run preliminary financial aid at various institutions, second tier private schools are coming in at 12-20K in institutional grants (but remember that this is off the top of a tuition bill which is 36-45K), and the public ones have tuition discounting instead-- for a student in the 90th percentile and higher for the institution, that might be as much as 40-50%, but that is IN-STATE students.

The gapping problem is getting bigger. Colleges gloss over it in their statements, but it's not trivial.

Also, even preliminary aid calculations now ask questions re: equity and other investments. They clearly DO consider those things somehow, though the exact details are frequently proprietary.

One reason why I still think that this conversation likely is better here than at CC is that the reality here is predicated on most of our kids BEING in the top percentiles no matter where they are looking. The real question is whether it is acceptable to be in the top 1% for the institution, or the top 10%.

It's not about "getting in" for anyone posting here, I suspect. It's about getting in so that you can extract a good education from that setting at a cost that seems worth it.

I also concur strongly about TigerParenting (for any reason) as a means of achieving this goal. No matter how defensible your rationale, unless you are desperate and this is (seriously) the ONLY way that your child can attend college at all due to financial dire straits... it's simply NOT worth what it will cost either of you in the long run. What constitutes "Tigering" varies with the individual child significantly, however.

Some kids respond very well to push-parenting (done in moderation, mind). My DD is one of them. Now, our version of "push" parenting is "No, this was your idea, you signed up for it, we paid for it, and you're going to follow through on the commitment." Not "here's your list of extracurriculars, and here are our target outcomes. Do whatever you need to in order to reach those." :cringe: To be clear, we have seen some of DD's peers subjected to the latter type of parenting.

Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.