Financial Aid

20 Colleges with the Best Financial Aid

Some colleges are known for having the best financial aid packages.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

March 19, 2020

20 Colleges with the Best Financial Aid
Discover which colleges go above and beyond in the financial aid department.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get your college education for a steal? Fortunately, there are plenty of colleges around the country that make that happen every year for students. While colleges may have a large sticker price up front, that isn’t necessarily what each student will pay. Thanks to financial aid, which is funded by the federal and state governments as well as through a school’s endowment, students can expect to pay less than the total college costs they see for tuition, room and board and fees. Some colleges and universities across the country go above and beyond when it comes to financial aid, oftentimes closing the gap between financial aid and what students actually have to pay by just a few hundred dollars. The Princeton Review has narrowed down the top 20 most generous schools in the country, based off of student satisfaction in their annual survey.
1. Bowdoin College – Brunswick, ME Tuition: $53,418 Average aid package: $48,856 2. California Institute of Technology – Pasadena, CA Tuition: $52,506 Average aid package: $50,077 3. Claremont McKenna College – Claremont, CA Tuition: $60,715 Average aid package: $57,015
4. Colgate University – Hamilton, NY Tuition: $61,594 Average aid package: $49,068 5. College of the Atlantic – Bar Harbor, ME Tuition: $42,993 Average aid package: $38,519 6. Columbia University – New York, NY Tuition: $58,920 Average aid package: $56,829
7. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art – New York, NY Tuition: $44,550 Average aid package: $46,135 8. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering – Needham, MA Tuition: $57,280 Average aid package: $55,955 9. Grinnell College – Grinnell, IA Tuition: $60,988 Average aid package: $53,709 10. New College of Florida – Sarasota, FL Tuition: $6,916 (in-state) and $29,944 (out-of-state) Average aid package: $13,450 11. Pitzer College – Claremont, CA Tuition: $57,686 Average aid package: $44,153 12. Pomona College – Claremont, CA Tuition: $54,380 Average aid package: $55,485 13. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ Tuition: $56,010 Average aid package: $50,201 14. Reed College – Portland, OR Tuition: $62,420 Average aid package: $48,052 15. Rice University – Houston, TX Tuition: $52,070 Average aid package: $52,764 16. Skidmore College – Saratoga Springs, NY Tuition: $59,064 Average aid package: $45,600 17. St. Olaf College – Northfield, MN Tuition: $54,650 Average aid package: $46,115 18. Stanford University – Stanford, CA Tuition: $55,473 Average aid package: $56,991 19. Swarthmore College – Swarthmore, PA Tuition: $54,256 Average aid package: $55,293 20. Thomas Aquinas College – Santa Paula, CA Tuition: $27,000 Average aid package: $14,029

How to Apply for Financial Aid

Financial aid isn’t just distributed because you apply to colleges. It requires its own application. At times, it can feel as tedious as applying to colleges, but the end result is worth it. Between scholarships, grants, federal work study and student loans, you could receive thousands of dollars in financial aid help in order to pay for college. The first step to qualifying for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is made available on October 1 of every year, and it asks about a family’s financial circumstances. The figures and information provided enable the federal and state governments as well as colleges to make financial aid decisions based on each student. The FAFSA deadline occurs 20 months after the initial release date, but that is for federal financial aid only. Many states have a deadline that occurs just a few months after the October 1 release date and others recommend that you fill out the form as soon as possible because they distribute financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s worth mentioning here that your parents’ financial information is required when filling out the FAFSA, regardless of if they plan to help you pay for college (unless you qualify as an independent student on the FAFSA). For students under the age of 24, the federal government views paying for college as the parent’s responsibility. Essentially, filling out financial aid forms is a group effort, even though paying for college as a family may not be a possibility. But getting your parents on board to help with these applications is vital for students hoping to qualify for financial aid.

Looking at Financial Aid Award Letters

After a family has completed the FAFSA, they will receive an Expected Family Contribution – or EFC. This figure gives them a rough estimate of how much they’re expected to pay towards their child’s college education. The federal and state governments as well as colleges receive that financial information, like the EFC, and develop a student aid package that helps meet the need of each student. Financial aid award letters are typically sent out in late winter and early spring. Students will see a mix of scholarships, grants, work study and student loans. With that, though, financial aid packages can bring a lot of relief for students or a lot of frustration. Sometimes, financial aid packages may not be enough to help families cover the cost of college. Families can actually negotiate packages with financial aid offices to try and get more help. They can also use financial aid offers at other schools to get the desired package at their first choice college. Now, this may not work every time, but it works some of the time – so it’s worth it. Another thing to note is the price tag on colleges. You’ll notice that many of the price tags on the above colleges are quite high, but look at the average financial aid package for those schools. Those types of packages make high-sticker-price schools comparable to in-state public colleges – sometimes even less. Applying to colleges with high price tags in no way obligates you to attending. So put a few of those private colleges on your list, and just see how you fare when the financial aid packages are distributed.

Financial Aid Pays Off – Literally

As you search for colleges, do some research on their financial aid packages. Don’t write a college off just because it looks too expensive. Most of the time, those colleges are the most generous with financial aid. Remember that timing is everything when it comes to financial aid. Most of it is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning the sooner you fill out the necessary applications, the better you’ll fare in the end. Finally, financial aid is negotiable. After you receive your packages, you can use them to negotiate for a better deal. After all, this is one of the biggest investments in yourself that you can make. Do everything you can to ensure that you’re making smart money decisions now so that your college education can pay off for you in the future.

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