Consensus Methodology

What Is the Consensus Approach Methodology?

The Consensus Approach consists of a set of common standards for determining the family's ability to pay for college. It seeks to reduce much of the variance in need analysis results that has been experienced in recent years. The participating institutions believe that the Consensus Approach, when applied in a consistent manner, serves to diminish or eliminate the divergent results that threaten the long-standing tradition of awarding aid on the basis of need.

The Consensus Methodology begins with the understanding that the College Board's Institutional Methodology (IM), is an appropriate base for institutional need analysis and provides a platform for further work. Consequently, the 568 Group has focused on those aspects of the current IM that are most often subject to local interpretation or professional judgment. The desire to serve the "greater good" rather than individual institutional needs and capabilities has required compromise in some areas, but the 568 Group believes that the resulting methodology remains true to both the institutional and professional principles that underlie its cooperative efforts.

The 568 Group does not view the Consensus Approach as a panacea. Need analysis procedures have traditionally depended on "professional judgment" applied locally. Although the Consensus Approach standardizes many policies that are subject to professional judgment, the 568 Group recognizes that no system will completely eliminate disparate results or the effects of individual institutional "packaging" decisions, which are beyond the scope of the 568 Group's activities.

Finally, it is important to note that the 568 Group views its efforts as a long-term process. Some policy issues require regular exploration and analysis. Moreover, the use of the Consensus Approach will present, over time, new and unexpected issues and concerns.

To Whom Does the Consensus Approach Apply?

Although the Consensus Approach applies primarily to first-year students, it is understood that most institutions will, for purposes of consistency, apply this approach to upper-class students as well.

What about Financial Aid Packaging and Merit Awards?

The Consensus Approach deals exclusively with the family's ability to pay for college. It does not address issues associated with the mix of grant, loan, and work components of financial aid awards, often referred to as packaging policies. The group also does not address non-need based aid, often called merit awards, whether academic or athletic.