The 10 Most Generous Universities for Financial Aid

The 10 Most Generous Universities for Financial Aid
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By Jessica Bryant

Published on June 21, 2021

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As colleges continue to become less and less affordable, students may be curious about their options for furthering their education. Fortunately, many schools offer generous financial aid programs that cover a significant amount of the costs to attend their institution.

Still, with so many choices at hand, you may be wondering what types of aid are available to you and which schools offer the best kinds of financial assistance. Below you will find a generalized explanation of the various categories of financial aid and a list of the top ten most generous universities in the U.S., according to The Princeton Review's 2021 report.

Types Of Financial Aid

Here are examples of the types of financial aid a school may offer you.

Grants are money provided by the federal government that does not need to be repaid. Grants can also come from the state government, your college, or a private or nonprofit organization.

When it comes to scholarships, schools may offer you need-based or merit-based scholarships, and you can additionally apply to outside scholarships that will help you cover school costs.

Loans are money that is borrowed and must be paid back, with interest, in time. There are various types of federal public loans as well as private loans that can be taken out to cover costs.

Federal work-study is a program offered in financial aid packages that allows students to work part time to earn money for school.

The Top Ten Most Generous Universities for Financial Aid

The highest scoring universities on The Princeton Review's 2021 list were all private institutions. The organization ranks schools based on the amount of aid they offer and how satisfied students are with that aid.

Some tuition figures may differ from current amounts due to time of reporting. Tuition and fee calculations do not include the cost of books and other supplies.

10. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology, better known as Caltech, is a Pasadena-based research institution. The university offers full or partial need-based aid to all admitted students. The majority of Caltech's aid comes in the form of need-based grants and scholarships. The university does not currently offer any merit-based scholarships.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

  • Tuition, fees, room, and board: $71,244
  • Average need-based aid: $49,806
  • Average scholarship/grant package awarded to freshmen: $50,165

9. Haverford College

Haverford College, located in Pennsylvania, is a private liberal arts college that meets the full financial aid of all admitted students. During the last academic year, at least 46% of students received some type of financial aid. Aid packages can include a mix of scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. Financial aid packages for students with family incomes of $60,000 or less do not feature loan awards.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

8. Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University encourages all applicants to apply for financial aid, regardless of family income levels. Students from families whose income is less than $75,000 annually will have their full financial needs met through grants, scholarships, and work-study rather than loan awards. The private research university also offers aid to its students for all four years.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

  • Tuition, fees, room, and board: $76,766
  • Average need-based aid: $53,553
  • Average scholarship/grant package awarded to freshmen: $55,624

7. Grinnell College

Iowa-based Grinnell College is a private liberal arts college that commits to meeting 100% of student need-based aid without loans. For the first time ever, financial aid packages offered to students for the 2021-22 academic year will not include any loans. Instead, loans will be replaced with grants. At Grinnell, at least 86% of students received some type of financial aid and in the last academic year; the college spent approximately $58.6 million on student grants and scholarships.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

6. Williams College

A private liberal arts college based in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College meets 100% of needed aid through grants, scholarships, loans, and student employment for all four years of schooling. Approximately 50% of aided students are asked to take out loans and the average amount of loan debt per graduate is $16,215. The university is the only institution in the U.S. that guarantees free textbooks and course materials to all students receiving aid. Students receiving aid may also receive funds for study abroad costs.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

  • Tuition, fees, room, and board: $74,660
  • Average need-based aid: $51,521
  • Average scholarship/grant package awarded to freshmen: $51,358

5. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt is a Nashville, Tennessee-based private research university that meets 100% of demonstrated need-based aid without loans. The institution boasts three merit-based scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition and include stipends for study abroad, research, or service projects. Last year, Vanderbilt awarded more than $41.5 million in scholarships to first-year students. The university also offers a program which provides need-based undergraduate students with funding for extracurricular activities that require fees.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

4. Pomona College

This private liberal arts school in Claremont, California is one of just 100 or so universities that is need-blind. This means that a student's ability to pay tuition is not factored into admissions decisions. Pomona College will meet full demonstrated aid for all students through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work-study.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

  • Tuition, fees, room, and board: $71,980
  • Average need-based aid: $55,082
  • Average scholarship/grant package awarded to freshmen: $44,703

3. Yale University

This private research university and Ivy League institution will meet 100% of demonstrated need-based aid. During the 2019-20 academic year, the school spent more than $180 million on scholarship aid for its students. Yale's initial aid packages will never include loans, however small loans may still be a necessity to cover remaining costs. Eighty-six percent of Yale's 2018 class graduated with zero loan debt.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

2. Princeton University

Princeton University is the highest scoring Ivy League to make the top ten list of universities with the best financial aid packages. Princeton meets 100% of demonstrated need-based aid through grants and famously implemented a no-loan policy 20 years ago that has allowed 83% of students to graduate with absolutely no debt. Full financial assistance is offered to students whose families make up to $65,000 annually.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

  • Tuition, fees, room, and board: $70,250
  • Average need-based aid: $52,438
  • Average scholarship/grant package awarded to freshmen: $48,000

1. Vassar College

A private liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar awards financial aid to more than 60% of its students and promises to meet 100% of need-based aid for all admitted students. In the 2020-21 year, financial assistance was offered to students with family incomes of up to $270,000. Vassar College's aid packages can include scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study offers. The school also eliminates loans for families who meet income requirements.

Tuition and Fee Calculations

For more information on the best financial aid packages offered by a variety of schools, visit our financial aid resource guide, which includes further information on how to apply for aid, where to apply for aid, and what to expect throughout the process.


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