This is a very controversial topic and the most straight forward answer is: it depends! Okay, let me explain why that is the case. Colleges couldn’t be more different and for the most part, so are their financial aid packages. The information from the FAFSA or CSS profile paints a picture that is not quite clear, so it leaves colleges in a place where they have to implement strategies that make the most sense based on their priorities. So let’s dig a little deeper into your situation. For instance, you are debating going to College A or College B. Both are residential and have different sticker prices and the amount of gift aid is somewhat similar but the package is drastically different:
The one thing to keep in mind is that every situation is different and colleges for the most part are giving their best financial aid packages upfront. This allows the financial aid officers to work on extenuating circumstances that students and families experience.
Your top choice is College B, has a cheaper sticker price, lower net price but your out of pocket is 6,000 more. Perhaps in this scenario, it may be worth reaching out for an appeal and see if the student loans can be increased so that the parental contribution can be lessen. In this scenario, the difference is that College A is extending the maximum allowed student loan, while College B is doing the lowest.