COLLEGEdata: Looking for College Money

COLLEGEdata is a valuable website to bookmark for anyone researching colleges and universities.

In this video, I illustrate how you can use COLLEGEdata’s search engine to sort schools in two categories:

1. Colleges that provide excellent aid packages for students who have financial need.

2. Schools that provide a large percentage of their students with merit scholarships.

After using the search engine to generate a list, I explain how you can dig deep and research the financial practices of individual schools.


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  1. Hi Lynn,

    I’m noticing a wide variation in the graduation rates at the schools that came up in my search. What, in your opinion, is an acceptable graduation rate? What do you do with that information? I’m afraid it’s kind of like a big short situation—maybe a lot of families overreach when they send their kids to the school and the students can’t afford to stay. Or maybe there are other things it could mean, like the school seems friendly enough and then when you go there, it’s nasty? What do you think?


    1. Post

      Hi Nancy, The average grad rate for public universities is 33% and for private colleges it’s 53%. The way the federal government collects grad rates helps to depress them somewhat. It is very important to research who graduates in four years and who doesn’t.

      Here is a link to a resource guide that I wrote on this important issue that should answer all your questions about it:

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. Hi Lynn,

    At schools that meet a large % of need and also give merit……. If you have a student who qualifies for both need-based and merit-based awards, how will the school typically meet need? Will they give merit on top of need-based aid to possibly meet more than 100% of need (As long as it is not greater than total COA)?

    Is merit aid typically reserved for students who have no financial need?


    1. Post

      Hi Kristin,

      The statistic on the percentage of students who receive non-need-based aid strictly refers to students who have absolutely no need.

      A school will provide the merit aid first and if that fills the gap between the school’s cost of attendance minus your EFC, there would be no possibility of need-based aid. In many cases, merit aid is actually used to meet financial need.

      Lynn O.

  3. Lynn,

    Do most schools give merit money for four years or freshman year only?

    Also, are there any strings attached to the merit money (I.e. Maintain certain GPA)?
    Thanks, Mary Lu

      1. Hi Mary Lu,

        Graduate school is a very different animal. Government aid almost always comes in the form of loans. An exception is the federal Teach Grant that some graduate education students can qualify for. My son did.

        Grad scholarships often come from academic departments. There is typically more money for PhD students since they are the ones who often teach the undergrads and they have to spend seven years or more out of the workforce. Certain majors are more likely to get money – most notably STEM majors.

        Lynn O.

  4. Lynn,
    When merit money is given for four years does it include an increase if the cost of tuition
    Goes up each year to cover that increase?
    Mary Lu Dyer

    1. Hi Mary Lu,

      Typically the merit aid does not increase as the cost of the attendance does. I would suggest, however, that you try to negotiate with a school after you receive the package and request that the award increase with the price of the school. It is definitely worth a try since so many schools must hustle to fill their freshmen classes every year. This probably wouldn’t work for schools that are quite popular, but even then it’s worth a shot!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy