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Need-Blind Admissions and Financial Aid “Gapping”

This article from Inside Higher Ed. explains the nefarious process of “gapping” students when awarding financial aid.  Even colleges that say that their admissions process is “need blind” often do not offer enough financial aid to cover a family’s financial need (as expressed by the FAFSA’s “expected family contribution,” or EFC.

College bound students and their parents should not be misled by the claim that the admissions process is “need blind.”  Even if it is, it is possible that you will not get a financial aid award that meets your need.

In other words, you may get in–but be unable to pay the price demanded.

Reader Interactions


  1. So what are the families supposed to do, especially if that school is the student’s number one choice?

  2. Hi, Karen! Thanks for stopping by. My recommendation is for parents to have a heart-to-heart with their kids from the very beginning: the choice of college you will attend will depend, in large part, on the price you are offered. Parents for whom price will be important need to remind kids that there are many, many colleges that will meet their need and will provide an excellent education. Price sensitive families can ill-afford to let their kid become completely enamored with a single college–especially one that is unlikely to offer inadequate need-based or merit aid. So bring kids into the family conversation about money as early as possible.

    The alternative could be very dangerous for your either your relationship with your kid or for your impending retirement–or both. It would be horrible if you had to pull the rug out from under your kid’s dream if he or she were accepted to the dream school, but parents decide at that stage that they cannot afford it–and will not pay for it. It would be equally bad for you to empty your savings and diminish your home equity in order to finance a dream: both you and your kid may never recover from the financial impact of paying for something you cannot really afford.

    Sorry to be the bearer of unpleasant news. My hope is that you won’t shoot the messenger!

    All the best, Karen!

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