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Top 10 Colleges With Best Financial Aid Packages: Princeton Review

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(Related: Top 20 Colleges Worth the Cost: Princeton Review)

The Princeton Review has just published The Best 384 Colleges, 2019 Edition, which includes  among its many lists a Financial Aid Honor Roll highlighting schools that provide substantial financial aid and satisfy students’ financial needs.

There are 10 schools on the honor roll list, all private non-profits. Two are ivies — Princeton and Yale — and the rest are select institutions known for their academics, such as Williams College and Vanderbilt University, aka the “Harvard of the South.” Each institution made the list because of the size of its average financial aid package and student satisfaction with the package.

All 10 schools received a score of 99, on a scale of 60 to 99, which reflects the percentage of students who needed aid and got it, the percentage of need met per student and the percentage of students whose need was fully met.

The financial aid is delivered as grants and scholarships from the institution, state, federal or other sources for which a student must demonstrate financial need to qualify, according to David Soto, a co-author of the new directory and director of content development at The Princeton Review.

Except for one of the 10 institutions, the sticker price for each tops $62,000, the average undergraduate grant exceeds $43,000 and the aid dispensed ranges from 63% to 82% of the sticker price.

Thomas Aquinas College in northern California is the outlier, providing aid equal to just 41% of the sticker price, but its cost of attendance is well below that of the other schools — $33,400. Given that its average grant is $15,585, the net cost to students is similar to that of other schools on The Princeton Review’s honor roll. Those net costs range roughly between $17,000 and $26,000 annually, equivalent to the sticker price for many state colleges and universities.

“A lot of these schools have big endowments used to offer financial aid,” says Soto, noting that many have endowments over $1 billion.

“We always say ‘Don’t scratch the school of your dreams because it has a high sticker price.’ For anyone who displays the need, there are many schools that will not require you to take out any loans.”

While some private, nonprofit institutions have large endowments that can help fund aid, many state universities and colleges have been subject to government budget cuts, which can affect not only the availability of financial aid (lower) but also the sticker price (higher).

Check out the gallery for the 10 institutions on The Princeton Review’s Financial Aid Honor Roll. They are ordered from lowest to highest in terms of the percentage of total costs covered by the average financial aid package.

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