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The Financial-Aid Fine Print

The wealthiest colleges have similar policies. But variation among them can make a real difference in what students will pay.

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.

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Update (Feb. 25, 2015, 11:40 p.m.): These are the percentages reported to the federal government, but the figures for Harvard count non-traditional students who take classes at the university’s extension school. Harvard maintains that the numbers make the university appear less socioeconomically diverse than it is.
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