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What is the 568 Presidents Group and how does it impact financial aid?

December 14, 2018

The 568 Presidents Group is a consortium of colleges and universities that admit students on a need-blind basis.  The Group, which currently has 24 member schools, works together toward the goal of maintaining a need-based financial aid system that functions well for families and colleges alike.  The Group strives to uphold a robust collective system for evaluating students’ financial needs in a way that is:

  • Fair;

  • Understandable; and

  • Consistent, such that students with similar financial needs receive comparable financial assistance.

History of the 568 Presidents Group

The concept of need-based financial aid first developed in the 1950s, as a way for colleges and universities to distribute their limited supply of financial aid dollars to the largest number of qualified candidates.  In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against 57 colleges and universities, accusing them of illegally coordinating to set similar tuition rates and offer comparable financial aid packages.  The schools, which ultimately won the case, argued that such coordination was beneficial to students and colleges because it prevented “bidding wars” for promising students and ensured the availability of need-based financial aid for the largest number of people.  

In 1994, the Improving America’s Schools Act was passed.  Section 568 of this Act set forth the conditions under which colleges and universities may work together to establish common approaches for awarding non-federal financial aid.  Section 568 applies only to institutional aid - financial aid offered by a school directly - and only to colleges and universities that admit students strictly on a need-blind basis.  Notably, Section 568 of the Act does not permit schools to discuss or compare specific financial aid packages offered to individual students.

The 568 Presidents Group was formed in 1998.  A group of 28 college and university presidents (hence the group’s name) met to discuss their shared belief in the importance of need-based financial aid.  The 568 Presidents Group was established with the objective of bolstering public confidence in colleges’ financial aid award systems, which they agreed should be both transparent and fair.  At the time of the 568 Presidents Group’s founding, the group committed to developing a common methodology for the equitable distribution of institutional financial aid.

Subsequently, in 2000, the 568 Presidents Group established a Common Standards Subcommittee to determine ways that financial aid award systems can be further improved to meet the needs of students and families.  The Group has since established a Need Analysis Council, which engages in annual review and planning activities for the organization, in addition to a Technical Advisory Committee and Steering Committee. The Technical Advisory Committee is responsible for developing recommendations pertaining to the Group’s Consensus Approach Methodology (more on this below) and the Steering Committee oversees the ongoing work of the Group.

Consensus Approach Methodology

The 568 Presidents Group has established a Consensus Approach Methodology for fairly and consistently determining families’ ability to pay for college.  The Consensus Approach Methodology seeks to improve upon the College Board’s Institutional Methodology (IM) (which uses the CSS Profile) by honing in on areas where the IM is frequently subject to local interpretation or professional judgment.  Schools that utilize the Consensus Approach Methodology to award financial aid do so in effort to reduce or eliminate variance among institutions in how families’ financial situations are interpreted.  

The Consensus Approach Methodology deals exclusively with the ability of families to pay for college.  This methodology does not address issues associated with so-called packaging policies, which concern the mix of grants, need-based scholarships, loans, and work-study positions offered to students.  The Consensus Approach Methodology also does not address issues relating to non-need based aid, also known as merit awards, such as academic or athletic scholarships.

List of Member Schools

The following is a complete list of the 568 Presidents Group member institutions:

To learn more about the 568 Presidents Group, visit their website.