How Do I Find Colleges That Give Lots of Money?

Is your dream school an expensive private college that you can’t afford to attend?

There is hope! Some private schools have a public commitment: All students accepted will pay only what they can afford.

These schools promise to meet a student’s full financial need. Schools determine what this number is using information reported by the family on the FAFSA and, often, from other reporting tools like the College Board’s CSS Profile.


No Loan Schools

Schools that promise to “meet need” may do so using a combination of federal and school-based aid as well as work-study and subsidized student loans. There is also a subset of these schools that are “no loan” schools. They promise to meet a student’s financial need without asking the student to take on debt.

However, these “no loan” policies vary in how they define financial need.

For example, Columbia University distinguishes among families making up to $66,000 a year, $66,000 to $150,000 a year, and over $150,000. Those in the lowest earning group qualify for a “full ride,” that is Columbia will pay the full cost of attendance. Tuition, room and board, and other expenses will be covered completely by federal aid and school grants. Students in the mid-range may also avoid loans because their aid will cover tuition, but students may be required to pay other costs. See: Columbia’s Financial Aid Page

This is in contrast to a school like Tufts University, which also “meets need,” but typically offers aid packages that are loan-free only for students with a total family income of less than $60,000. See: Tufts’ Financial Aid Page


How to Find Schools That Meet Need

Create a list of colleges and universities that you’d like to attend. Make sure you include a range of schools that include reach, target, and safety options. It’s OK to put together a long list when you’re first starting your research, but you’ll want to whittle it down by the time you apply so you don’t get overwhelmed with essays and submissions as well as application fees.

Make sure to include schools that you can truly afford as well as ones that may be more expensive, but are generous with aid.

It’s easy to find lists of schools that meet full financial need, including schools that are no loan schools. PrepScholar offers a comprehensive list with links to each school’s financial aid web page. College Vine offers a similar list, which also includes each school’s acceptance rate.

Keep in mind that schools may change their policies over time, so it’s fine to start with these lists, but always check a school’s financial aid site or contact the school’s financial aid office before you apply.


Always Use the Net Price Calculator

While you’re on the school’s financial aid website, use its net price calculator to get a sense of how much aid you’re likely to receive from the school. Our articles below will help you understand how to calculate what you can afford.

Sticker vs. Net Price: Finding Colleges You Can Afford

Five Tips for Using a College Net Price Calculator

Want to learn more about no-loan schools?

Here are three articles we like:

‘No-Loan’ Colleges: What to Know (U.S. News)

No Loan Colleges: What They Are and A Complete List (College Vine)

These Colleges Promise No Student Debt (CNBC)

Need More Help?

Consider looking for scholarships. There is a lot of help out there, but it is important to be smart about where you look. These articles will help you find extra scholarship dollars.


Things You May Not Know About Applying for Scholarships

Your Scholarship Hunt: Where To Start on the Big Websites

Five Ways To Find College Money on TikTok