NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wealthier Colleges Get More Financial Aid

December 23, 2003

The federal government typically gives the wealthiest private universities (which often serve the smallest percentage of low-income students) significantly more financial aid money than their struggling counterparts with much greater shares of poor students.

According to an analysis by the New York Times of federal data on the more than 4,000 colleges and universities that receive some form of federal aid:

  • Brown University received $169.23 for every student who applied for financial aid in order to run its low-interest Perkins loan program in the 2000-1 academic year.
  • Dartmouth got $174.88; Stanford, $211.80; however, most non-Ivy League universities received only $14 on average.
  • Nearly 200 colleges received less than $3 per applicant for financial aid; the University of Wisconsin at Madison got 21 cents.
  • Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and all other members of the Ivy League were given 5 to 8 times the median to pay their students in work-study jobs.

These same schools also got 5 to 20 times the median amount of grant money to look after the everyday needs of their poor students, despite having some of the largest endowments in the nation (Harvard and Yale both have endowments of more than $10 billion. Princeton's is $8.7 billion).

Source: Greg Winter, "Rich Colleges Receiving Richest Share of U.S. Aid," New York Times, November 9, 2003.

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