Stanford reduces or eliminates the EFC for families making less than $60,000. And last month, it said it would reduce the cap on the annual amount of student loans that an undergraduate is expected to borrow - from $3,500 to $2,000. It also will reduce the expected contribution from families making between $60,000 and $135,000 by changing the way it assesses home equity. The school calculates that the change will save parents an average of $2,000 a year. The school also said it would make an allowance for renters with no home equity, so that their other assets aren't disproportionately weighted.
Emory University, meanwhile, is also replacing loans with grants for those with family incomes of $50,000 or less. And for students whose family income ranges between $50,000 and $100,000, the university will cap the total amount of need-based loans a student must take at $15,000 over their college career.
As beneficial as these types of changes may be to students and parents, they don't necessarily mean a school that has made a change will give you the best aid package, said Kal Chany, author of The Princeton Review's "Paying for College Without Going Broke" and president of Campus Consultants, which helps clients maximize their aid packages.
That's largely because schools use different formulas to assess your expected family contribution. So a mix of grants, loans and work study in your aid package may cost you less in the long run than a mix of grants and work study if the expected family contribution is higher, especially if you'd have to take out a parental loan to pay for part of the EFC.
"The size of the package is irrelevant," Chany said. "What matters is how much do you have to pay and how much do you have to borrow."