Irrational expectations?
June 2, 2010 12:35 AM   Subscribe

What percentage of U.S. undergraduate students receive some form of need-based financial aid?

A recent survey of student aid expectations indicates that 51 percent of prospective students expect some form of "aid based on family income or need." The poll also suggests that this expectation is out of proportion to the number of students who actually receive need-based aid. Despite extensive searching, I can't find any good data on the percent of students receive (or even qualify) for some form of need-based aid. This sort of information is widely reported by university financial aid offices, but a nationwide average is elusive. Just how far off is the average student's estimate of the likelihood of receiving need-based aid?
posted by ecmendenhall to Education (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: By the way, I have read the College Board's excellent Trends in Student Aid report, which summarizes just about everything but the bit of information I'm looking for.
posted by ecmendenhall at 12:37 AM on June 2, 2010

In the sciences, people tend to get around $20k in stipends, regardless of need.
posted by chicago2penn at 5:32 AM on June 2, 2010

whoops. sorry.

it's 7.30 in the morning, and i forgot to see the 'under' part of the 'undergraduate'
posted by chicago2penn at 5:34 AM on June 2, 2010

A Chronicle of Higher Education article states:

"Sixty-three percent of all undergraduates received some form of financial aid during the 2003-4 academic year, up from 55 percent in 1999-2000, according to a report released this month by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The data, part of the center's National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, indicate that in 2003-4 students received $7,400 each, on average, up from $6,200 in 1999-2000, the last previous year for which the study was conducted."

Three out of four students in graduate school or a professional program received aid, which averaged $15,100 in 2003-4, according to the report. The report was based on a sample of 80,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate and professional-school students."

That's not precisely your question, because it's not necessarily need-based, but it's interesting. The article also links to this government document. Perhaps it has the data you want?
posted by parkerjackson at 6:18 AM on June 2, 2010

Oops, I meant to delete that bit about grad students. Anyway, I just skimmed that NCES document-- you can probably get some kind of estimate there, but the problem is defining need-based aid. If they expect to get Pell grants based on low income, then a large part of the 51% who expect it will be disappointed because only 27% get them. But if they expect to get help with subsidized loans or anything else, then only a few are wrong because 46% get some kind of assistance. Here are the numbers from that document:

Federal Title IV program aid received by undergraduates in 2003–04 (tables 5 and 6):

• Forty-six percent of all undergraduates received financial aid from one or more federal
Title IV programs in 2003–04.

• Federal Pell Grants were awarded to 27 percent of all undergraduates in 2003–04. The
average Pell Grant amount received was $2,500. Undergraduates enrolled full time for
the full academic year who were awarded Pell Grants received an average grant of

• Twelve percent of all undergraduates enrolled in 2003–04 received aid through one or
more of the federal campus-based Title IV aid programs, which include Perkins loans,
federal work-study, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. The
average amount of federal campus-based aid received by undergraduates from one or
more of these programs was $1,800.

• One-third (33 percent) of all undergraduates took out federal Stafford loans in 2003–
04, borrowing an average of $4,900. Subsidized Stafford loans, which are awarded on
the basis of need, were taken out by 28 percent of undergraduates. Unsubsidized
Stafford loans, which are available without a test of need, were taken out by 21 percent
of undergraduates.

• In 2003–04, parents of 9 percent of dependent undergraduates who were enrolled full
time for the full academic year borrowed an average of $9,400 through the PLUS
posted by parkerjackson at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2010

I should add the caveat that these numbers may not be ideal for your question-- the survey asked high school students and the NCES report is on students who actually enrolled. There could be a large number who did not go to college because they didn't get the need-based financial aid. So the NCES numbers may be too high.
posted by parkerjackson at 6:31 AM on June 2, 2010

You can search Try the National Center for Education Statistics as source. (They have their own site, of course, but ERIC will give you a broader net.) I know a lot of NGO reports on financial aid have come out in the last few months.
posted by jgirl at 8:11 AM on June 2, 2010

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