American universities see foreign students as an asset; it's a way for them to diversify the student body. We bring a different world view to the classroom, as well as to the dorm room and the cafeteria. Because of this, universities actively court international students to enroll. For the most part, international students pay full tuition and board which is a great source of revenue for the universities. But they realize that the high cost of American undergraduate education (the cost of attendance at a typical American university can be over $60,000 yearly) makes recruitment difficult.
As non-US citizens, we do not qualify for any government sponsored financial aid...whether it comes from the federal government in Washington, DC or the local state governments. Aid to foreign students is generally limited to the funds that the individual universities have on hand
Financial aid can be divided into two kinds: need based and merit based financial aid. Need based aid is doled out to students simply based on the student's ability to pay. If she can only pay a fraction of the cost of attendance, need based aid can be allotted to her to cover at least a portion of the balance. This is done regardless of her academic promise or ability. Merit based aid is the exact opposite, it is aid that is given based on the student's academic talent regardless of her ability to pay. I have a friend who is the former chief financial officer of Chase Manhattan Bank, a very well off fellow indeed. His daughter was such a great student that she got a full scholarship to Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Her parents pay nothing despite the fact that they could easily do so. Merit based aid is normally used as a bait to hook superior students to enroll at a university which these students would normally ignore. Most of the time, students (American or international) get a combination of need based and merit based aid.
So how does a Filipino student like you go about applying for financial aid? Normally, you declare on your application that you intend to seek financial aid. When the college gets this, they will either send you a form called the CSS Profile (from the same folks that brought us the much beloved SAT) or an in house financial aid application form. Either way, it will ask you about your family's financial situation in excruciating detail. Not a fun thing to do. You may want to get your family accountant involved. After you've filled out the form and substantiated your claims of poverty, the college will sit and determine how much they think your family should be able to cover of your college expenses. The difference between the college's cost of attendance and the figure they come up with for your family is what they call "determined need".
For example, let's say your Beloved College has determined that your parents should be able to cover $20,000 annually. If the total cost of attendance at said college is $60,000 annually then your determined need is $40,000. Note, you and your parents may not agree that you can cover $20,000 but determined need is something the college determines on its own...it doesn't seek your input into the matter. The amount of determined need is what the college works with in deciding how much aid you should get.
At some very well funded universities, they guarantee to meet the full determined need of all admitted students. That means that in the above example, the college will come up with the $40,000 you need to come to the university. This will normally come in the form of a combination of scholarships, grants and some work study hours (you work part time on campus and part of your wages goes towards paying your college expenses). But at most universities, they can fund only part of your determined need. Citing the example above, your determined need is $40,000. The school aid may only come up to $10,000 leaving it to you and yours to pony up the $30,000 shortfall PLUS the $20,000 they determined you should come up with in the beginning. So they've essentially decided to give you a $10,000 tuition discount (and that's really all that these grants and scholarships are...dressed up tuition discounts) on the $60,000 sticker price. If that wasn't enough, applying for financial aid CAN jeopardize your chance of being admitted to begin with. Schools that have these admission policies are called need aware schools. They will not admit students who, while academically admissible, cannot pay the fees and the college can't cover the difference between determined need and cost of attendance
Some places admit students regardless of ability to pay. These schools are called need blind schools. We can see now that a school can be need aware but will guarantee to meet full need, need aware yet will not guarantee to meet full need, need blind but will not guarantee to meet full need and need blind and will guarantee to meet full need (the best kind). It doesn't take much to realize that the colleges that are need blind and guarantee to meet full need are rare...the most common schools are need aware and yet will not guarantee to meet full need. And when you start looking for schools that meet full determined need, remember to make sure that they do this for INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. Most colleges will trumpet that they meet full guaranteed need....for US citizens and permanent residents only (written in very small type of course). And some universities even lie about their need blind and need aware admission status. Just a few days ago, George Washington University was caught with its hand in the cookie jar. They were secretly need aware when all this time they said they were need blind. So what am I trying to tell you? I'm trying to tell you that while financial aid is there, don't count on it to cover your American college dreams. For some very fortunate students, they will land coveted "full rides" and for some the aid offered by the university will be enough and that the students can cover the difference. But for a lot of students, it just won't work and their American college dreams will remain only that...a dream. After all these years, an American college education is still a rich man's game.
- GWU Admissions and the Economics of Higher Ed (pileusblog.wordpress.com)
- Should colleges consider financial aid in admissions decisions? (washingtonpost.com)
- Funding Your Studies in the U.S. (destinationku.wordpress.com)
- Stanford endowment rose to $18.7 billion, more international finaid in sight (stanforddaily.com)
- Colleges That Give International Students the Most Financial Aid (usnews.com)