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The Financial-Aid Fine Print

Admissions counselors from any of the country’s wealthiest colleges would probably describe their financial aid in similar terms. Something like: “Yes, our price tag is really high, but we meet the full demonstrated need of all our students. If you get in here, we’ll make it affordable for you.”

That’s basically true. And the wealthiest colleges do have roughly the same financial-aid policies. But they’re not exactly the same.

Colleges work to strike a balance between providing for current students and conserving resources for future ones. And they have some wiggle room, ways they can get a bit more money from students or go an extra mile to support them. On top of that, college officials differ in their philosophies about whether all students should have “skin in the game” when paying for their educations, and how much is appropriate to ask of them.