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Financial Aid Leveraging (EMFASYS)

Explaining How to Best Use Financial Aid Leveraging for Admissions

Maguire Associates wrote the book on enrollment management and has worked with more than 500 institutions to implement unique and effective financial aid leveraging strategies. We want to unpack the entire process for you, so you understand how to properly execute it for your school, how Maguire Associates can help, and what makes our data-driven methods so much more powerful than the rest.

As we update our website, our goal is to reveal more of what's under the hood and explain how a partnership between us and your admissions will achieve any number of objectives, including:

  • Accurately forecasting net revenue to meet a desired budget;
  • Shaping demographics (gender balance, recruiting out-of-state students, bolstering specific academic programs, etc.);
  • Increasing quality, however that is defined at your institution;
  • Suppressing an inflated tuition discount rate;
  • Increasing net total revenue;
  • Gaining a comprehensive view of future results to inform long-term strategy development.

We have helped all types of schools conquer these lofty goals through financial aid leveraging, but more importantly, we have the expertise to advance multiple goals at the same time and in the safest ways.

Our financial aid leveraging email series will discuss methods, give real life examples, and set expectations for various scenarios. With each campaign, this page will expand and reveal more, but we are ready to get you started or answer any questions whenever you wish. Reach out at any time.

The Tiers of Financial Aid Leveraging: Separating the "Best" from the "Mediocre"

Maguire Associates was the first and is one of the only financial aid leveraging firms to provide individualized awarding – that is, we develop a model based on your past enrollment data to optimize your awarding on a per-student basis. From this “ideal” model, which is built to maximize each student's contribution to net revenue, we can make small adjustments in aid to accomplish your other enrollment goals, including adjusting the composition and size of your incoming student population, increasing student quality, and decreasing discount rates. As your partner, we will take your admitted students and apply your proprietary formula to the data file, returning it with the optimal award for each student. As your class unfolds, we will adjust the model, if necessary, and we have the experience to know when patience is your ally.

But why use individualized awarding in the first place? Please look at this model of a class of students, where Image A is the individualized awarding and Image B represents some non-Maguire grid-based models.


In all cases, some students will come to your institution with little aid, while others will require larger packages to enroll.

In Image A, each student receives his/her optimized award amount. The line follows no particular pattern because each student’s award is based on his/her individual characteristics and is created to maximize each student’s probabilistic contribution to net revenue.

 Image B represents a less-sophisticated grid-based awarding system. While it will provide packages that are ideal for a few, it will miss the mark by a considerable amount for many. Students who are similar, but not the same, are packaged into groups, and students in each group are awarded the same amount. Additionally, an individualized awarding equation was not calculated in the first place, so the grid does not hug the ideal line because it is not known. Some grids over-award large groups, needlessly increasing discount rate and reducing net total revenue (red), while others under-award many, sacrificing yield and perhaps quality (orange). This “cheaper” alternative costs much more in the end.

When requested, Maguire Associates provides grid-based awarding that is superior to other grid-based offerings because it has a foundation of individualized awarding. By first calculating the most effective and cost efficient award for each student, we can then construct a grid based on that unique formula, seen in Image C.


 With Maguire Associates’ grid-based awarding, your team will manage the awards, set by data-informed rules specific to your institution. With either of Maguire Associates' services, your school will come out ahead. That’s why last year our clients saw an average of a 21x return on every dollar spent on a financial aid leveraging (EMFASYS) project.


Upcoming financial aid leveraging topics:

   ~ Optimizing Financial Aid Leveraging to Adjust Demographics

   ~ Maximizing Net Total Revenue Through Financial Aid Leveraging

   ~ Using Financial Aid Leveraging to Increase Academic Quality

   ~ Combining Goals and the Resulting ROI


DEEP DIVE: The Details of the Process

If you are ready to get started, but want more information on what we'll do together, here is a look at the process for financial aid leveraging with Maguire Associates


Step 1: Review Current Financial Aid Practices and Results

The Maguire Associates financial aid leveraging (EMFASYS™) process will start with a review of your awarding practices and enrollment outcomes of the current cycle. We will work with your project team to prepare a database of applicants, admitted students and enrolling students from the last two to three years. We will send the institution a complete list of data fields needed – most of which are common and likely to reside in your admissions and financial aid systems already.  

We will then take a close look at the impact of current financial aid practices on your enrollment composition, academic profile and fiscal status. This will make it possible to see not only how students at various levels of need and quality have accepted or declined your offer of admission in reaction to the net price (in other words, how they “voted with their feet”), but also how much net revenue each category of enrolling students brought to the institution.

Step 2: Identify Your Institution's Enrollment Predictors

Next, we will build a predictive equation based on your data to determine which factors are statistically significant predictors of yield at each campus. In other words, what factors best predict a student’s likelihood of enrolling at the school?

In our many years of working with data from different colleges and universities, we have found that each institution has its own distinctive set of predictors and that knowledge has driven our customized approach.

Each cycle begins with a refresh of the models and each year we look to incorporate new variables that will continue to strengthen the model.

Step 3: Gauge The Price Sensitivity of Your Market

Your predictors of enrollment will be used to build a model to test the market’s reaction to the current costs by performing a “price boundary” thought experiment. In this experiment, accepted student responses to price will be tested by assuming two theoretical extremes: that your institution will provide no institutional gift-aid to any students at one end of the spectrum, and full institutional gift-aid to all accepted students at the other. The resulting enrollment ratio will quantify student price sensitivity. Moreover, we will be able to explain how this ratio compares to other similar institutions.

We will also test the pool’s reaction to a meet-full-need policy, and its reaction to our individually optimized awarding option. After examining the resulting enrollments in these four scenarios, we will both have a better sense of its outer boundaries, will be ready to set reasonable enrollment and revenue goals, and will have done the groundwork for aligning tuition decisions and institutional aid investments.

Step 4: Review Enrollment Scenarios

Once the price boundaries have been defined, we will ask your project team to pose "what-if" questions to evaluate a variety of financial aid awarding strategies and their likely impact on key variables, such as academic quality, academic interests, discount rate, net tuition revenue, and class composition.

Some of the questions we will strive to answer in this phase of the project are:

  • Is there opportunity to improve the current financial aid packaging policies at your institution?
  • How much will it cost to attract subgroups of students – higher quality students, female students, those from outside your primary market(s), etc.?
  • What will be the effect of each trade-off option on the discount rate and net revenue?
  • What is the best combination of enrollment goals that can be achieved, while increasing net tuition revenue sufficiently to meet overall operational needs?
  • Are there ways to increase net tuition revenue without increasing the discount rate at the same time? If not, what steps, if any, can be taken to reduce the discount rate without losing net revenue?
  • At what discount rate and headcount will your institution maximize net revenue?

We will seek your input in developing a more personalized set of questions to be addressed in the project.

Frequent communication is needed during this phase as we work closely with you to fine-tune chosen strategies and to further customize and optimize the models. In the end, we will work with you to ensure that you have identified pricing and aid awarding strategies that advance your enrollment goals.

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