How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

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tommytahoe
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How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby tommytahoe » Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:54 pm

First, I have made an honest search of TLS to find the answer to this question.

I anticipate being offered some amount (don't know how much) of merit $$ from a few schools whose medians fall below my numbers. I am a 37 y.o. non-trad, with an EFC of zero, and so normally I would expect a good need-based aid package (of course, accounting for the fact that not all schools give need-based aid equally).

So, my question: Does anyone have an idea of to what extent need-based aid gets reduced for an applicant who has been offered merit $$ to attend a law school? Let's firm up the hypothetical, and say that the amount is $75,000 for three years.

I don't expect a hard rule on how much b/c, again, the dynamics change with every different applicant, and with every different school, and depending on how late in the cycle it is. I am just looking for some solid estimates from those who have actually experienced this sort of thing. I expect to choose between one of these kinds of schools and higher-ranked schools that won't offer me merit $$, but who may also offer me a generous need-based aid package not reduced in any way because of merit $$... If you follow. I'm weighing the hypothetical scales between rankings vs. reduced debt, etc...

thanks for any info.

t.

agentcom
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby agentcom » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:07 pm

As far as I know merit based is straight subtracted from need-based.

In more detail: Schools have expected cost of living calculations, i.e. how much it costs to live there each year plus go to school. This number cannot be moved upward except out of a narrow list of exceptions like child care or vehicle expenses (this may depend on how willing your FA officer is to sign off on additional expense requests). From that number is subtracted any merit aid from the school. As you can probably see, this means merit aid is a wash as to how much money (cash) you can access each semester. Of course, it's still a good thing because you don't have to pay that aid back. The next thing that comes out of this amount is the remainder of your tuition. Whatever is beyond that you WILL be able to access in cash through various types of government sponsored student loans. Over certain amounts the loans become less attractive (higher interest rates). It is possible to live off the amount (or significantly less for some people).

Hope that helps.

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tommytahoe
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby tommytahoe » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:26 pm

Thanks!
I suppose I should have been more specific. That is, while I understand I will definitely need to take out some need-based loans, I was curious top what extent merit $$ lessens any need-based [i]grants[i] for which I would have been eligible absent the merit $$.

Like, as a 37 y.o. poor undergrad, I may be eligible for $25,000 in grants (This is of course just an example, not what I def. expect). I was wondering to myself whether all, or most, of that gets erased if that same school were to offer me $25,000 in merit $$ to attend there instead of a higher ranked law school.

thanks for the info.

agentcom
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby agentcom » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:30 pm

Oooohhhh. Sorry, but I have no idea on the grants. Good luck though. I'm sure someone here is in the same boat.

angioletto
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby angioletto » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:19 am

It is my understanding that there are no government-sponsored grants available to law students. (i.e. the Pell grant, which every undergrad college student with need is eligible for, regardless of which school they go to.) Instead any grants that are offered are specific to the school so this will vary greatly based on the school.

As far as whether the grants will be reduced based on merit aid - I think that will also vary by school.

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tommytahoe
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby tommytahoe » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:24 pm

Thanks for the info. Yeah, I was referring to in-school need-based grants specifically. And now that I have written that out, I see how it would only be logical for a school to reduce its in-school need-based aid package to an applicant to whom it just offered tens of thousands of dollars in merit $$. Question remains: how much. One can only wonder what they would have offered had they not offered merit $$, so I'll just estimate when the situations come around. Thanks

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JayTal
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby JayTal » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:30 pm

I've actually been wondering the same thing. I was given a pretty large scholarship to a school that is pretty notorious in giving out large need-based grants. When I received my scholarship letter there was mention of the scholarship and that I was eligible for the full-amount allowed by Stafford loans. There was no mention of need-based grants. I've waffled back and forth as to whether I should assume that I wasn't awarded any, or whether that information is to follow. I'm assuming that the merit-based aid washed away the need-based FWIW.

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vanwinkle
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby vanwinkle » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:31 pm

It's important to understand that at almost all law schools, "need-based aid" is in the form of loans. You'll probably be offered subsidized or lower-interest loans, which you can still get to cover remaining costs even if you get merit aid, but for the most part law schools these days reserve the bulk of their grant and scholarship money for merit-based aid. "Need-based aid" usually means some form of loans.

This is justified on the basis that 1) you always have federally-backed loans as an option so it's not like a lack of need-based grants will shut you out of attending, and 2) with a graduate degree (and especially with a JD) there is an assumption that you will be able to find solid paying work when you graduate and thus be able to repay loans at that time even if you're financially disadvantaged now.

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tommytahoe
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Re: How does a merit aid package limit my need-based aid?

Postby tommytahoe » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:50 pm

Right. Points (1) and (2) I have heard before, and from a school's perspective, they make complete sense. I guess I was basing my question in part on the fact that I had come across one or TLS posts where folks like me (older, EFC = 0 types) had been offered $10,000 - $15,000 a year at schools like BU, GW, etc... and not as merit aid. So I put that scenario together (possibly misguidedly so) with the merit $$ I anticipate from a couple of schools, and wondered how they worked together as a whole.

I suppose my best take-away is that any school willing to offer me, say, $80,000 all-up in merit aid, would be highly unlikely to feel as generous as they would otherwise be, with loans or straight-up need-based grants.




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