Best Colleges for Low Income Students

Is your dream college too expensive? Get the truth with a net price calculator.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 16, 2014

Best Colleges for Low Income Students Best Colleges for Low Income Students

Many students, whether low-income or not, take a look at the full sticker price of attending certain colleges and find it’s impossible to pay that much. What students may not take into account at that moment is the net price, which means the total cost after merit and financial aid are applied. When net price is figured, some of the most expensive colleges in the country become some of the most affordable, depending on which income bracket you fall into.

At this point, you’re probably disbelieving.

But according to Forbes, Harvard University, at which the full cost of attendance for the 2012 – 13 year was $57,950, a student whose family income is between $30,000 and 45,000 would pay just over $3,000. Although Harvard has one of the largest endowments for scholarships and financial aid, many of the most prestigious and expensive colleges in the country can provide comparative net prices because of similar endowments.

Forbes cautions that students should keep in mind that it’s more likely that they will benefit from these lower prices if they have a lower family income, below $75,000 in most cases. For proof, check out how much some of the top colleges that come at the lowest prices after merit and financial aid:

1. Amherst College (Sticker Price: $61,544)
- $1,936 for income bracket of $0 – 30,000
- $9,128 for income bracket of $30,000 – 48,000
- $10,016 for income bracket of $48,000 – 75.000

2. University of Pennsylvania (Sticker Price: $61,800)
- $3,847 for income bracket of $0 – 30,000
- $10,238 for income bracket of $30,000 – 48,000
- $11,403 for income bracket of $48,000 – 75,000

3. Harvard University (Sticker Price: $59,950)
– $3,897 for income bracket of $0 – 30,000
– $2,977 for income bracket of $30,000 – 48,000
– $5,405 for income bracket of $48,000 – 75,000

4. Vassar College (Sticker Price: $61,000)
- $4,456 for income bracket of $0 – 30,000
- $5,576 for income bracket of $30,000 – 48,000
- $11,187 for income bracket of $48,000 – 75,000


5. Bowdoin College (Sticker Price: $61,850)
- $4,754 for income bracket of $0 – 30,000
- $9,334 for income bracket of $30,000 – 48,000
- $10,965 for income bracket of $48,000 – 75,000

Fortunately, it’s easier now more than ever to figure the net price of attending the institution of your choice. In 2011, the Higher Education Act of 1965 was amended to stipulate that every institution that participates in Title IV student aid programs is required to post a net price calculator on its website. These calculators ask students questions similar to what they would find on the FAFSA – parental income, student assets, etc. – and give an idea of the total cost that student will pay for that particular college with financial aid.

Like the top-tier universities above, you can find out for yourself how much the real cost of college is for the school you want to attend with a net price calculator. You will find them on a school’s admissions or financial aid website. Also, be sure to check out our expert financial aid advice on ways to pay less for college.

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