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Understanding How to Evaluate and Compare Institutional Scholarship Offers

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The value of an education is immeasurable, but the cost of college is steep.

Between academic years 2007-08 and 2012-13, the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year, degree-granting institution receiving any financial aid increased from 80 to 85 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The percentage of students receiving aid at four-year, private, for-profit institutions grew from 76 percent in 2007-08 to 89 percent in 2012-13.

For the majority of students, accepting financial aid is an essential stepping stone toward earning a college degree. Scholarship and grant opportunities in particular can help ease the burden of college costs and make higher education more affordable.

If your student is deciding among different college opportunities and financial aid offers, congratulations on his or her acceptance! Factors such as location, campus culture, school size and academic programs serve as considerations during the decision-making process, but financial aid typically prevails.

Use this guide to help evaluate and compare financial aid and scholarship offers.

Types of Financial Aid

The three main types of financial aid are loans that require repayment, work-study programs and scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants provide the most impactful financial opportunity; scholarships and grant are given to your student based on academic merit, athletic achievement, minority status, financial need or field of study, for example. These types of financial aid are awarded to your student and aren’t required to be paid back.

Financial Baselines

First, determine the cost of attendance to use as the foremost guiding factor while evaluating financial aid. The cost of attendance includes the estimated cost of tuition and fees, room and board, coursework materials and extra college living expenses, according to Scholarships.com.

Next, determine your expected family contribution and unmet need for each college. The expected family contribution is the amount your student expects to pay (typically based on your student’s financial aid application, FAFSA or CSS Profile). Your unmet need is the amount needed to pay to meet average annual costs.

The cost of attendance and the estimated amount your family will contribute and is responsible for can help guide which college opportunity is most financially beneficial.

Evaluating Scholarship Offers

The award letter will itemize each financial component, including the cost of attendance, expected family contribution, unmet need and institutional scholarships. Mindful of these financial components, help your student assess scholarship offers by listing each scholarship and name according to amount and conditions for acceptance.

Acknowledge the following details as you and your student evaluate each award:

  • Duration of scholarship
  • Minimum GPA or other academic or course requirements
  • Sport or activity requirements
  • Conditions (for example, is it a high-value annual scholarship with extensive conditions for renewal? Or is it a scholarship with a smaller annual amount but is easily renewable?)
  • Rules in regard to other financial aid your student receives (for example, if the scholarship or grant amount exceeds the amount of financial need, the awards will be reduced)

Evaluating Financial Aid

GoCollege also offers these tips to help make the best decision while evaluating your overall available financial aid:

  • Value scholarships and grant opportunities the most; these never have to be repaid
  • Try to acquire subsidized Federal loans; unlike unsubsidized loans, subsidized loans are more affordable because your student won’t have to pay for interest accrued during college
  • Aim to minimize your unmet need amount, which can mean choosing the school that may not be a top choice, but is more affordable
  • Compare short-term and long-term costs (for example, a loan that covers all costs upfront may cost more down the road, rather than a school offering scholarships or grants that may still leave an unmet need)

Scholarships at Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University recognizes the rising costs of attending college and believes in making a valuable higher education an attainable opportunity.

GCU strives to make a private, Christian education affordable for all of our students. GCU offers generous academic scholarship and grant opportunities and has kept tuition frozen with no increases since 2009. The average student pays approximately $8,300 per year* in tuition after institutional scholarships and grants. Plus, our room and board prices are well below the national average, starting at just $6,050 per year.**

Visit gcu.edu/CampusScholarships to learn more about full-time, on-campus and outside scholarship opportunities to financially supplement an education at Grand Canyon University. The University Financial Aid Office awards scholarships to support educational goals of students based on factors like academic merit, fine arts, leadership and early decision. Scholarships may also increase based on academic performance at GCU.

Information as of 2015-16

*Average tuition for the academic year 2015-16 after scholarships is approximately $8,300. Scholarships may be awarded based on incomplete transcripts. At the time in which final, official transcripts are received, GCU reserves the right to rescind or modify the scholarship if it is determined that eligibility was not achieved. To be eligible, students must meet scholarship requirements and be fully admissible to the university. GCU reserves the right to decline scholarship awards for any reason. If a student does not meet the minimum renewal criteria, their scholarship will be forfeited. GCU reserves the right to change scholarship awards at any time without notice.

**Housing and meal plan rate includes triple occupancy, suite-style residence hall and $1,350 Dining Dollars, plus applicable sales tax as required by state law. Prices reflect 2016-17 and are subject to change.