As most of you know, I am a huge college basketball fan, and I consider March Madness — the 64 (now 68) team tournament — to be the closest thing to ‘perfect’ in sports.  And this year, as in years past, I’ll be making my bracket using my novelty-use-only university generosity strategy to pick the winners and losers.  But I had a rare extra hour today and thought I’d get a head start on what ESPN has now branded ‘The March to Madness.’

First, I’m no Gator hater (at least not in basketball)!   I have a terrific bunch of 12th graders who are excitedly headed to the Swamp this Fall, and they will get a great education there.  But if I were on the NCAA basketball selection committee (which I am not), this March I’d be picking St. Olaf and Grinnell (over UF and many others) to Dance in my tournament.  And it has nothing to do with last night’s UF loss to Tennessee.  I do realize St. Olaf and Grinnell are Div. III schools, but read on because….

I clearly have different criteria.

My top 64 colleges are those that have pledged to meet the full financial need (preferably with limited or no loans) of any admitted undergraduate, regardless of sticker prices they may publish.  And lucky for me, a U.S. News survey recently reported the results of a survey of 1164 colleges and universities that studied the average percentage of financial need met for incoming undergrad students for these schools (2011 matriculation). And as perfect tournament math would have it, exactly 64 of those schools surveyed were able to demonstrate that they consistently covered the full gap between the college’s published cost of attendance and their admitted students’ demonstrated financial need… as determined by government and institutional formulas related to income, assets, household dynamics, etc.

(Important aside: You may know that aggregate student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, but this problem is much reduced at schools meeting 100% demonstrated need.)

Tonight I’m speaking at Nova Southeastern University in the Carl DeSantis Building, Room 1047.  Those who attend will receive a list of these 60+ schools, as well as hear an overview of the financial aid formulas,  how a family’s ‘need’ gets determined and met, and a demonstration (based on real life people, schools and financials) of  how seemingly pricey schools are actually more affordable than their lesser expensive (and less generous) conterparts.

If you have a college-bound high schooler at home, you should make last minute plans to attend.  There is absolutely no charge for this class, and it might just save you thousands of quid.   You can click here to reserve your seat and materials and to get more information about the topics I plan to cover.

Best wishes,

Peter

P.S. Feel free to forward this post to someone who has a child headed to college in the next couple of years.  They’ll thank you for it.

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