50 Top U.S. Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid (2023)

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Updated on: October 29th, 2018

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When it comes to choosing an affordable college, sticker price can be deceiving. The cost of attending a college is just one factor that impacts what a student must pay or borrow to enroll. The financial aid package a college offers students to help cover educational expenses is just as important.

Our new study surveyed student aid awarded at 1,244 U.S. colleges to find the schools that offer the most financial assistance to students in need. We found that the average financial aid package offered to students with a financial need at U.S. colleges is an impressive $20,494.

Some colleges provide far more assistance than that, thanks mostly to institutional aid such as scholarships and grants. Here, we highlight the 50 top colleges in the U.S. that provide the most financial aid to their students who need help.

Key Findings

The average value of financial aid packages was $47,895 among the top 50 schools. That’s more than 2.3 times the average among all 1,244 schools surveyed.

  • The gap between aid packages charts with higher costs. The average annual tuition and fees across all 1,244 colleges was $24,042. Among the top 50 schools, the average was$49,702.
  • All 50 of these top schools are private colleges or universities. Additionally, all Ivy League schoolsmade the list, with Columbia University leading the pack by offering aid packages averaging $55,521.
  • Of the top 50 colleges with the largest financial aid packages, 46 reported meeting the full demonstrated financial need for every qualifying student.

10 U.S. colleges awarding the most financial aid

For this study, we used data from Peterson’s to identify U.S. colleges offering the largest financial aid packages to students in need.

These financial aid packages include all forms of financial assistance awarded to students. The numbers reflect federal, college-provided, and private student aid. They also include gift aid, such as grants and scholarships, as well as federal and private student loans.

We also include the following stats for each school:

1. Columbia University in New York City

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $55,521
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,973
  • Students whose full financial need was met: 99%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $55,056

As stated on its site, Columbia University meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need of its first-year and transfer students. Parents of families who have a combined income of less than $60,000 aren’t expected to contribute to the cost of attendance.

2. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $52,894
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,732

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $49,480

On its site, Yale University says that it meets 100% of financial need without student loans. It puts its own average need-based scholarship at $49,575 for the 2017-2018 school year.

If a Yale student’s family has an annual household income under $65,000 plus typical assets, they’re not expected to pay any college costs out of pocket.

3. Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,890
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,014

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,790

Williams College is committed to meeting 100% of each student’s financial need, according to the school’s website. It awards over $50 million in institutional aid to its students each year.

4. Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,775
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,066

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $52,476

Amherst College is another school that seeks to meet 100% of both domestic and international students’ financial need.

Amherst College awards $50 million in scholarships each year. This help students pay for college while relying less on student loans. Seven out of 10 graduates in Amherst’s Class of 2017 graduated without student debt. Compare that to the 75% of students who did after graduating from a private nonprofit college.

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5. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,308
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 3,687

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $47,074

Getting into this famed school can be hard enough. Fortunately, students get plenty of help figuring out how to pay for a Harvard University degree.

Roughly 6 out of 10 Harvard University students receive a need-based scholarship, the college reports. Students who come from a family with an annual income below $65,000 pay nothing out of pocket for their education. About 20% of students aren’t expected to contribute to their education.

6. Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $50,820
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,548

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $53,090

All Vassar College students with family incomes of or below $270,000 received gift aid of some kind this past academic year, according to the school.

Like other colleges on this list, it’s no accident that Vassar meets the full financial need for 100% of its students. Providing full aid is one of the college’s stated goals.

7. Webb Institute in Glen Cove, New York

Webb Institute offers a full-tuition scholarship to all enrolled students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. This school of engineering also offers additional need-based aid to cover other attendance costs, such as room and board, which totaled $14,750 during the 2017-2018 school year.

8. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $50,312
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,651

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,265

Duke University also meets 100% of all admitted students’ financial need, according to its financial aid website.

Families with household incomes at or below $60,000 aren’t expected to pay college costs out of pocket. Even a student whose family is expected to contribute around $20,000 to college could still receive around $45,510 in need-based grants.

9. University of Chicago

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $49,967
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,483

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $52,491

The University of Chicago offers to cover the demonstrated financial need for all students “through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work expectations.”

Of the University of Chicago’s 2016 graduates who left college with student debt, the average balance was a relatively manageable $23,852, according to Collegedata.

10. Colgate University in Hamilton, New York

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $49,912
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,047

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,955

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Of the average aid awarded to students who qualify for need-based assistance at Colgate University, just $2,500 comes in the form of student loans, according to the university’s website. The majority of aid ($46,775) came in the form of a school grant. The university is committed to covering the full financial need for every one of its students.

The 50 colleges that offer the most student aid

These private colleges offer competitive student aid packages despite high enrollment costs. Annual tuition and fees are over $47,000 for nearly all 50 colleges. Compare these costs to the averagein-state tuition and fees at a public college, which comes to $9,970.

With such huge price tags, many students would struggle to afford these colleges on their own. Fortunately, these private colleges offer millions of dollars in institutional aid, grants, and scholarships to help cover costs. In fact, none of the top 50 colleges have financial aid packages below $45,000.

Below is a list of the 50 U.S. colleges that provide the largest financial aid packages, ranked by the size of the average financial aid package awarded.

RankCollegeAverage financial aid packageAnnual tuition and feesStudents receiving need-based aidStudents whose full need was met
1Columbia University$55,521$55,0562,97399%
2Yale University$52,894$49,4802,732100%
3Williams College$51,890$51,7901,014100%
4Amherst College$51,775$52,4761,066100%
5Harvard University$51,308$47,0743,687100%
6Vassar College$50,820$53,0901,548100%
7Webb Institute$50,710$48,7753389%
8Duke University$50,312$51,2652,651100%
9University of Chicago$49,967$52,4912,483100%
10Colgate University$49,912$51,9551,047100%
11Princeton University$49,502$45,3203,126100%
12Haverford College$49,186$51,024629100%
13Dartmouth College$49,141$51,4382,097100%
14Stanford University$49,124$47,9403,255100%
15Barnard College$49,012$50,394998100%
16Georgetown University$48,999$50,5472,400100%
17Brown University$48,420$53,4192,702100%
18University of Southern California$48,399$52,9926,128100%
19Washington and Lee University$48,392$49,254771100%
20Smith College$48,115$50,0441,459100%
21Pomona College$48,034$49,352917100%
22Middlebury College$48,000$50,0631,085100%
23University of Notre Dame$47,884$49,6853,997100%
24Trinity College$47,679$52,760976100%
25Wellesley College$47,527$48,8021,361100%
26Swarthmore College$47,255$50,822867100%
27Wake Forest University$47,228$51,4001,449100%
28Franklin & Marshall College$47,144$52,4901,186100%
29Wesleyan University$47,077$52,4741,206100%
30Hamilton College$47,003$51,240892100%
31Vanderbilt University$46,938$45,6103,121100%
32Occidental College$46,791$51,0701,137100%
33University of Pennsylvania$46,707$53,5344,445100%
34Cornell University$46,339$50,9536,390100%
35Claremont McKenna College$46,129$50,950523100%
36California Institute of Technology$46,095$47,577500100%
37The Colorado College$46,024$50,892647100%
38Skidmore College$45,900$50,6841,07094%
39Bryn Mawr College$45,900$50,500721100%
40University of Richmond$45,784$50,9101,308100%
41Carleton College$45,763$50,8741,147100%
42Grinnell College$45,717$50,4641,122100%
43Lafayette College$45,615--721100%
44Northwestern University$45,505$50,8553,547100%
45Bates College$45,494$50,310774100%
46Pitzer College$45,338$50,430406100%
47Colby College$45,306$50,960783100%
48Tulane University$45,124$51,0102,08096%
49Reed College$45,050$52,150725100%
50Davidson College$45,001$50,444864100%

How to get a bigger financial aid award

Overall, this study shows that a high price tag doesn’t always put a college out of financial reach for a prospective student. College applicants and students can take steps to try to access more aid.

First, weigh the pros and cons of applying early for college. Many of the colleges on this list set early decision deadlines in November for the following school year.

Applying early can give you an edge in getting admitted and receiving more financial aid. But applying through early decision could mean you’re committing to attend one college without having all the information on hand. And keep in mind that many of these colleges require additional forms, such as the CSS Profile, to apply for student aid.

Many colleges set their own definitions and methods for determining your financial need. That means you might qualify for more aid at one college than another. That’s why it’s important to use financial aid award letters to compare what each college can offer you.

The rankings in this study can also highlight colleges that go above and beyond to help students cover educational costs. If you’re considering one of these 50 colleges, you can feel confident that it’ll likely provide assistance to meet your need for student aid.


LendingTree used Peterson’s data to survey and rank financial aid packages at 1,244 U.S. colleges. Additional information sourced from Peterson’s that didn’t affect rankings includes: the number of undergraduate students receiving need-based gift aid; the portion of students for which the college met full demonstrated financial need; and annual tuition and fees. Colleges for which these data points were out of date or missing from Peterson’s data were excluded from the 1,244 colleges surveyed.

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Which Ivy is most generous with financial aid? ›

Princeton University

Princeton University is the highest scoring Ivy League to make the top ten list of universities with the best financial aid packages.

How do upper middle class families afford college? ›

Students and families who do not qualify for Federal Pell Grants and Institutional need-based aid have several different options including scholarships, Federal Work Study, Federal loans for students, Federal loans for parents, private educational loans, and family savings and out-of-pocket payments, including payment ...

Which university in US gives full scholarship? ›

Berea College is the only school in the United States that provides 100% funding to 100% of enrolled international students for the first year of enrollment. This combination of financial aid and scholarships offsets the costs of tuition, room, board, and fees.

What salary is too high for financial aid? ›

There is no set income limit for eligibility to qualify for financial aid through. You'll need to fill out the FAFSA every year to see what you qualify for at your college. It's important to make sure you fill out the FAFSA as quickly as possible once it opens on October 1st for the following school year.

What is the least competitive Ivy? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

What is the easiest Ivy to get into? ›

What's the easiest Ivy League school to get into? While all Ivy League schools have a low acceptance rate, Cornell University has the highest acceptance rate among them. Cornell's acceptance rate is 11%, but try not to get too hung up on the numbers.

Where do rich kids go for college in USA? ›

10 Colleges with the Richest Students
SchoolLocationMedian Family Income
Middlebury CollegeMiddlebury, NY$244,300
Colby CollegeWaterville, ME$236,100
Georgetown UniversityWashington, D.C.$229,100
Bates CollegeLewiston, ME$226,500
6 more rows
Apr 8, 2020

Can you get FAFSA if your parents make too much money? ›

Don't worry, this is a common question for many students. The good news is that the Department of Education doesn't have an official income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid. So, even if you think your parents' income is too high, it's still worth applying (plus, it's free to apply).

How do I pay for college if my parents won't help me? ›

No parental support for college students? 7 ways to pay on your own
  1. Fill out the FAFSA.
  2. Apply for scholarships.
  3. Get a job.
  4. Look into tax credits for qualifying college expenses.
  5. Minimize your college costs.
  6. Research tuition assistance programs.
  7. Consider taking out federal student loans.
Jan 27, 2023

What is the easiest full scholarship to get? ›

Top easy scholarships in 2023
  • $10,000 “No Essay” Scholarship.
  • $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship – No Essay.
  • $40,000 BigFuture Scholarships.
  • $25,000 No Essay Scholarship.
  • March Madness Scholarship.
  • Sharpen No Essay Scholarship.
  • $5,000 Christian Connector Scholarship.
  • $2,000 CampusReel Virtual Tour Scholarship.

What GPA is required for full scholarship in USA? ›

Minimum requirements range from around 2.0 on the lower end to 3.75 or higher for competitive academic scholarships. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA or higher will give you a decent shot at qualifying for a variety of scholarships.

Can I get a full ride scholarship with a 3.5 GPA? ›

The GPA requirement usually depends on the type of scholarship and the institution awarding it. For example, a college may distribute an academic or merit-based scholarship to students who receive a 3.5 GPA or higher. Earning a high GPA can often help increase your likelihood of receiving a robust scholarship.

Should I empty my bank account for FAFSA? ›

Empty Your Accounts

If you have college cash stashed in a checking or savings account in your name, get it out—immediately. For every dollar stored in an account held in a student's name (excluding 529 accounts), the government will subtract 50 cents from your financial aid package.

How much do parents income affect FAFSA? ›

The FAFSA formula doesn't expect students or families to use all of their adjusted available income to pay for college. The formula allocates 50 percent of a dependent student's adjusted available income to cover college expenses and anywhere from 22 to 47 percent of parents' available income.

What disqualifies you from getting financial aid? ›

Incarceration, misdemeanors, arrests, and more serious crimes can all affect a student's aid. Smaller offenses won't necessarily cut off a student from all aid, but it will limit the programs they qualify for as well as the amount of aid they could receive. Larger offenses can disqualify a student entirely.

What is the blackest Ivy League? ›

Spelman College is ranked #1 in historically black colleges and universities in the U.S., and the top Black Ivy League school.

What is the least snobby Ivy League? ›

Cornell University

Cornell is also known to have the most relaxed academics of any of the schools of the Ivy League; however, this is dependent on the specific schools within the university. Cornell's more specialized schools—such as its College of Engineering—are equally as rigorous as its Ivy counterparts.

Which Ivy League has the prettiest campus? ›

The Ivy League with the best campus is Princeton. It's reputed as having the prettiest campus. But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Some people see Columbia as the most beautiful because of its gothic and classical buildings, while some will pick Cornell because of its breath-taking landscape.

What is the lowest GPA an Ivy League will accept? ›

None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply regardless of their GPA.

What is the smartest Ivy League? ›

The best Ivy League school in 2022 is Harvard, followed by Princeton and Yale based on this ranking method.

What is a hidden Ivy school? ›

The Hidden Ivies include many small colleges, such as Davidson College, Pomona College, Carleton College, and Oberlin College, as well as some large research universities, like Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Southern California.

Which Ivy Leagues have generous financial aid? ›

The Ivy League is known for its generous financial aid. Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, and Yale actually promise to meet 100% of a family's demonstrated financial need, without using loans in their financial aid packages.

Which Ivy Leagues give full scholarships? ›

Brown, Princeton, and Columbia offer non-repayable scholarships to meet their students' financial needs. Depending on a student's demonstrated needs, this can include full tuition and a percentage of room and board costs.

Is Cornell generous with financial aid? ›

Cornell provides annual financial aid packages that meet full financial need to all admitted and eligible undergraduate aid applicants.

What is the most accepting Ivy League school? ›

Recent data shows Cornell University is the Ivy League school with the highest acceptance rate.

Which US university gives the most financial aid? ›

The 50 colleges that offer the most student aid
CollegeColumbia University
Average financial aid package$55,521
Annual tuition and fees$55,056
Students receiving need-based aid2,973
1 more row
Oct 29, 2018

Which university receives the most donations? ›

SchoolDollar amount received in donationsNumber of undergraduate students
Harvard University$1,418,702,1746,766
Stanford University$1,097,060,5537,062
Columbia University$1,009,762,4186,162
University of California-Los Angeles$786,650,87831,002
16 more rows
Feb 20, 2019

Which college gives the most merit scholarships? ›

Most Students Receiving Merit Aid
SchoolLocationPercent of students receiving non-need based aid
Gonzaga UniversitySpokane, WA51%
University of DenverDenver, CO50%
The New SchoolNew York, NY49%
University of South CarolinaColumbia, SC49%
17 more rows

What is the most elite high school in America? ›

Most prestigious high schools in America
  1. Phillips Exeter Academy. ...
  2. Phillips Academy Andover. ...
  3. Los Angeles' Harvard-Westlake High School. ...
  4. Vegas, Nevada's Bishop Gorman High School. ...
  5. 5. California's Concord De La Salle High School. ...
  6. Santa Ana, California's Mater Dei High School. ...
  7. New York's Horace Mann School.
Jan 2, 2023

How rare are full ride scholarships? ›

Less than 1 percent of students get full ride scholarships, showing just how difficult it is to earn one. However, with the right background, proper planning and by knowing where to look, your chances of landing a full ride scholarship can increase.

What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship to Harvard? ›

Recipients are chosen on the basis of financial need and academic merit. Scholarship applicants must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.33 or higher. See important information about enrollment status for Special Students in Enrollment Considerations.

What GPA does Cornell want? ›

You should also have a 4.07 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Cornell, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

How generous is Yale financial aid? ›

Every Yale College financial aid award meets 100% of a student's Demonstrated Financial Need based on the Estimated Cost of Attendance and a calculated Expected Family Contribution.

Does Cornell give full rides? ›

No merit aid or athletic scholarships are awarded at Cornell; all grant aid is need-based. There is no minimum or maximum amount of gift aid that can be awarded.

What is the hardest ivy? ›

The “Big Three” Ivy League schools, plus Columbia, are likely the most selective. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—known as the “Big Three”—are historically the three toughest Ivy League schools to get into.

What is the lowest GPA an Ivy League has accepted? ›

None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply regardless of their GPA.


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