Earlham College, Richmond IN. Can my son get enough aid to go?

My son–can he really be old enough to be thinking of college?–wants to go to Earlham. Tuition runs $36K / year according to the website info. :eek:
We’re low-income (maybe 18K/year, three kids, single mom) so he’s eligible for most types of aid. But…wow. $36K?
I don’t know enough about Earlham to know how generous they are with good, hard-working, low-income kids. Is this even possible?
He already knows to have a backup plan, and that we won’t really know much until he gets a financial aid package offer, but any insight would be helpful. Unless someone pays for a heck of a chunk of that tuition, it’s gonna be Ivy Tech for him. Which is, actually, not a bad thing; but then again, neither is Earlham.

If your son is academically talented enough, he should focus on schools that offer full-tuition merit scholarships. That makes it cost essentially the same to go to a high-tuition school as a low-tuition school. It may even be less expensive to go to the high-tuition school, as the low-tuition school may be less likely to offer generous scholarships.

Setting his sights on only 1-2 schools is not the best plan, IMHO. Especially because geographic diversity is one thing schools consider in selecting for admissions and aid. Only looking at local schools (if that’s what Earlham is) can hurt him.

It is very possible for a bright student to get his full cost of tuition covered at an expensive school. Some of the additional aid he is likely to be eligible for, Pell Grants and student loans, can be applied to living expenses. I’d advise he be cautious about taking out loans to cover tuition at an expensive school, especially one that’s good but doesn’t have the name recognition of Harvard. That could be an easy way to wind up in massive debt.

I’m going to assume that your son has excellent grades and excellent SAT (or ACT) scores. He should apply to as many colleges as you can afford (maybe around six). One should be his safety school, a state university where he can certainly get in and get some financial aid. One should be a real reach, a truly top-notch school that’s very selective. Let the others be somewhere in the middle in terms of difficulty of getting in. Apply for financial aid at all of them. He should go to the best one that will accept him and give him enough financial aid. If you only make $18,000 per year, many very selective schools will completely pay for his education. I do mean completely. They will pay all the tuition, room and board, books, and maybe even the cost of travelling to the college. You might want to research how good the financial aid is at the various colleges. They might even be willing to say if they will pay for everything if he is accepted.

The only way to know how much aid he will receive is to apply and find out the answer.

It’s best not to put all eggs in one basket. He should apply to at least 4 schools, including one that a) he would be willing to attend b) would almost certainly accept him (i.e. the “safety” school)

That said, with a much higher parental income that you are describing, I got enough aid from Grinnell College (Iowa) to make the price identical to both my in-state schools (NY) and the package offered by The College of William & Mary (which is among the cheapest state schools for out-of-state tuition.)

So, it is not impossible to get big fat aid package from a private school, assuming, as was said above, that he is a desirable candidate w/ grades, etc.

Good–so far, this is just what I’ve been telling him. He’s a good student, going to a funky little alternative school where he’s very active in student government and in policy-making, etc. (It’s kind of hippie.) Good grades, good references, good scores. Not a terribly conventional school or student, but that’s perfect for some schools.
I’ll advise him to apply to several schools; so far he’s thinking of 3–one very local (IU), one in Indy, and Earlham. Not sure if he’d go out of state or not, but he’s not ruling anything out. Of course there’s always the community college, but he may do just as well financially to look at the pricier options.

Definitely worry about price after acceptance letters and aid offers are received. It sounds like he’s applying regardless, and that’s good.

Perhaps you or your son could start by checking out the Earlham financial aid website? A family with an AGI $15,001 - $25,000 received an average gift aid (i.e. free money) of $25,640 in '05-'06. Add on loans, work-study, and paid summer research, and you’ve got tuition, R&B, fees, and books pretty well covered.

His having siblings will work in his favor as far as award size is concerned. Just keep in mind that they’ll probably assume a parental contribution that is higher than you think is actually possible. Also you say you’re a single mom, but if his father is alive, many schools will insist on considering his income as well. If the “non-custodial” (not really, since student’s are typically 18+, but whatever) parent refuses to pay, the student can be SOL. I’m pretty sure Swarthmore expected dual parental contribution even if the student was married and had a kid! Even worse if this parent refuses to provide the necessary information about income and assets that’s required to fill out the piles of forms. I’m not sure what one does in that situation.

Also note that many schools will consider merit scholarships as fully available income and simply reduce the aid package proportionally. One can work really hard to get a $10k award only to find that now college costs $10k more. The scholarship is still something nice to put on a resume.

My roommate’s father worked a whole bunch of overtime the year before she started college. This was just a one-time fluke, but everyone assumed her family could afford much more than they actually could. She ended up going to a state school free based on merit and probably got a better chemistry education (we’re both in chem grad school) than I did at my fancy schmancy hippie liberal arts school. Not that I don’t feel my college education was well worth it, I’m just saying that all is not lost if the aid thing doesn’t work out.

I hope it does work out. Earlham is full of Quakers, and Quakers taste like chocolate :slight_smile:

I showed this thread to my sweetie, who is an Earlham alum, and she had this to say: