Top Schools Can Equal Low Debt

Getting into certain schools can save you some student debt. The challenge with some of these schools is getting in, in the first place. Some are hyper-competitive. Others might not have the exact combination of the criteria you need to make a commitment. Once again, the important thing is to do your homework during your college search and then matching your needs against what these schools have to offer. found ten private colleges, including three Ivy League institutions that provided enough financial aid to get their students across the finish line for around $6,000—well below the national average of $28,100. For example, Princeton University: With its no-loan financial aid policy, meaning that less than one fourth of students need to borrow, the average debt at graduation is a low $5,225.Berea College, a Christian-based institution, covers the full $25,500 tuition for all students. The average debt at graduation: $5,836. And Yale University, with its massive endowment and an $117 million financial-aid budget, offers no-loan financial aid to more than half its students. The result: students who borrow walk away with one-third less debt than the national average.

Here is the complete list. Below are some highlights:

About two-thirds of recent graduates borrowed to help pay for their college education. Graduates of private schools walked away with an average of $28,100 in student debt, according to The College Board.

These ten colleges and universities, which include some of the top institutions in the world, provided enough financial aid to get their students across the finish line for half that amount or less; several kept average debt below $6,000.

1. Princeton University: Princeton’s no-loan financial aid policy, introduced a decade ago, means that less than one-fourth of students need to borrow, and the amount they do borrow is small. Princeton’s average debt at graduation, at a little over $5,000, is the lowest among our top 200 private colleges.

2. Berea College: Plenty of colleges talk about keeping costs, and student debt, down, but Berea walks the walk: This Christian-focused institution covers the full $25,500 tuition for all students, out of a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study, leaving them to cover only $7,394 in remaining costs (including room and board). It’s no surprise that average debt here is second-lowest on our list.

5. Scripps College: This tiny, all-women’s school awards generous need-based and merit-based grants as well as privately funded need-based loans, which do not accrue interest while the student is in school. (Students also have access to federally sponsored loans, such as Staffords.) Scripps is one of the three members of the Claremont Colleges (a consortium of five colleges and two graduate programs that share faculty and facilities) to make our top ten for low debt.

9. California Institute of Technology: This small, elite school in Pasadena keeps debt to a minimum with its generous need-based aid, which reduces the annual cost for students who qualify to less than $20,000, on average. Its sticker price is the third-lowest among our top 25 universities.

10. Wellesley College: One of the few women’s colleges among our top 200 list, Wellesley accepts students without considering their financial circumstances and meets the full financial need of those who qualify. All but 5% of its financial aid comes in the form of grants.

Check out the other five. You may find a good match among them or from some of those mentioned above. For a discussion about this list, check this thread on the College Confidential discussion forum. Feel free to post your thoughts.