This article (one of my more popular posts) has been republished and updated from a year ago.

Tis finally March.  And for those new to my blog, you’ll soon learn that not only am I an education geek, I’m a college basketball crazy.  There is nothing that I love more than when these two passions collide, as they’re about to!

Each year I produce a ‘University Generosity’ NCAA basketball tourney bracket, where I look at the NCAA Division I Basketball bracket and select colleges based on net cost, historical levels of financial aid generosity and demonstrated ability to graduate students in four (not six) years.  My criteria?  The winners are schools with:

a) the most historically generous need-based financial aid programs with stated  Loan-Limited Award policies
b) the biggest endowment coffers and demonstrated history of using proceeds to discount tuition with Merit scholarships and
c) 4 year graduation rates close to 80% or better!

I refer to this as University Generosity Bracketology (I know, it’s geeky).  I’ve been doing this for the past 8 years, and in just a few weeks I’ll  be releasing my 9th annual ‘University Generosity’ bracket.

Which will be fun, even though I doubt that you’ll win any money in the office pool with my picks,  But then, you never know… there are worse bracketology strategies.  And sometimes my strategy actually works.  Schools like Duke, Georgetown, Stanford, and UNC-Chapel Hill are regular winners, all with handsome generosity ratings.  There are others still — like Notre Dame, Richmond or Creighton — that often deliver pleasant surprises as well, so stay tuned.

Now when it comes to selecting schools to attend, you have to be properly informed and have a customized strategy before you even apply.  Unfortunately, many students will (mistakenly) choose to apply to colleges based on their March basketball performance. Which can end up being expensive and inefficient.  So I suggest an alternate approach: choose schools based on their April performance, because that’s when financial aid offers are finalized.  Here are 62 schools that, according to US News, claim to meet 100% of demonstrated need.  Some of these schools are Division I and may advance through the bracket all the way to the Final Four.  Many others are Division III schools competing in their own tournament.  Some, like all 8 Ivy League schools that are listed, will only offer need-based discounts; but others on the list will offer need and merit scholarships (though not necessarily in equal measure).

Best,

Peter

P.S.  Feel free to forward this message to a friend, relative, or work-associate.  But don’t blame me if they win your March Madness pool!

P.P.S. For more information on University Generosity, come to one of my free workshops.

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