10 Colleges with the Best Financial Aid

Colleges with the Best Financial Aid - featured image

Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson, MS.Ed. | Reading level: Grade 9 | First covered: December 2023

College tuition fees can be hefty and difficult to pay for some. Considering inflation rates, college tuition has seen a whopping increase of 169% between 1980 and 2020. The good news? A wide array of financial aid programs is now available to students!

Colleges with the Best Financial Aid - fact

When a university offers financial aid, it means they are helping cover a part of the college costs. Scholarships, which come in different types, pay for a wide range of expenses, such as:

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  • Living expenses
  • Books
  • Travel expenses
  • Tuition

Don’t let the rising costs get in the way of your college and career plans! Look for the best financial aid option that suits your needs. 

10 Colleges with the Best Financial Aid

#1. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Tuition and Fees: $62,250

Yale University awards all undergraduate financial aid based on financial need. They do this mainly through scholarships and grants. These are often called gift aid and are sourced from the school’s funds.

Students can also access merit-based scholarships that employers, non-profits, and private companies fund. Another type of grant, the Entitlement Grant, is awarded based on several factors, including:

  • Residence
  • Federal need
  • Employer affiliation

Yale does not require parents who make less than $75,000 in total gross income to contribute financially to their children’s Yale education. Families that make anywhere between $75,000 and $200,000 should pay a percentage of their annual income.

#2. Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Tuition and Fees: $57,410

Princeton University commits to offering affordable and accessible education. Eligible students can benefit from its need-blind admission rule. It then assesses the applicant’s family’s financial situation to assemble a grant package. Assistance is awarded to students from various socioeconomic levels.

The university-wide eligibility makes it a leading college offering the best financial assistance!

#3. Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Tuition and Fees: $62,658

Around two-thirds of undergraduate students in the U.S. get need-based financial help. To be eligible, Dartmouth College considers financial capacity and academic performance.

Dartmouth’s scholarships, grants, and work-study programs may cover 100% of the college expenses. Dartmouth students may also use the financial aid awarded to them for study-abroad programs. Aside from scholarships, students can take federal loans for online and on-campus courses. 

#4. Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts

Tuition and Fees: $64,100

Amherst College knows that not all students and families can afford college tuition. It aims to provide financial aid to cover the gap between the estimated cost of attendance and what you can afford to pay. The institution awards scholarships to around 60% of Amherst students on average. And every year, students need to reapply for financial help. Changes in the cost of attendance may impact your need and your eligibility for help. The amount of financial aid may also be influenced by the family size, family income, and other factors Amherst requires.  

#5. Northwestern University

Evanson, Illinois

Tuition and Fees: $63,468

Northwestern University is known for offering financial help that is largely need-based. University funding is typically granted for a maximum of four years of study. On the other hand, up to five years of institutional funding may be available to students in five-year programs that have been preapproved.

#6. Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, New York

Tuition and Fees: $64,800

Financial aid is awarded to nearly two-thirds of Vassar College students. Vassar’s endowment, gifts and fundraising enable the college to award $72 million in scholarships annually. The scholarship is generally given out based on need. Students can disclose this in their College Scholarship Service Profile and the FAFSA form.

Besides Pell Grants, students can apply for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. This can reduce or eliminate student loans and lessen employment obligations. 

#7. Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Tuition and Fees: $62,688

Did you know that Duke University students generally don’t pay 100% of their college costs? Duke offers financial assistance programs through work-study, federal loans, and grants. Students may also apply for scholarships, including the popular need-based scholarship. Duke also offers merit scholarships to all applicants. 

#8. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuition and Fees: $63,452

Students enrolled in graduate and professional schools receive program-specific financial aid. They can get assistance with federal and private loans. At Penn, students can gain financial help for most undergraduate and graduate programs. Applicants can turn to Student Financial Help for assessment and assistance.

Students may receive work-study and grant support covering 100% of documented financial need. Undergraduate students often get scholarships from an endowment donor scholarship. There are also institutional financing like Penn Grant.

Depending on your eligibility and financial need, Penn may incorporate federal or state money in awarding the financial aid. A work-study award is another possibility; these might come from institutional or federal funding. Commercial and federal loans are also available for Penn students.

#9. University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Tuition and Fees: $64,260

The University of Chicago welcomes students who can contribute to their growth and innovation. This is regardless of the student’s financial situation, They can consult with financial assistance advisors who are accessible throughout the year to design an all-inclusive assistance package. They are taught to take out college loans responsibly to make the best choice possible for their financial circumstances.

#10. Columbia University

New York City, New York

Tuition and Fees: $66,139

Columbia University offers scholarship options to qualified students. This includes need-based, full-need, and need-blind scholarships. Students and their families can work with their expert advisors to:

  • Create a student budget
  • Apply for financial aid
  • Map out a plan for financing their studies at Columbia

Different Kinds of Financial Aid

Let’s understand the kind of financial aid programs offered to college students. Here are the most popular of them:


Scholarships don’t need to be paid back over time if it is awarded by:

  • Non-profits
  • Private companies
  • Schools
  • Individuals
  • Workplaces 

The common types of academic scholarships are:

  • Merit-based scholarships can be obtained by fulfilling or surpassing requirements. These are set by the scholarship provider. Academic performance alone or with a unique skill, quality, or interest can qualify for merit scholarships.
  • Need-based scholarships require applicants to prove that they are unable to pay tuition. Many scholarships are targeted at certain populations. People like graduate students or women, are among the groups for whom scholarships are available.

Some scholarships are offered based on your place of employment. It can also be your parent’s employment or previous work. A scholarship may cover your tuition costs in their entirety or be a one-time payment of a few hundred dollars.


A grant is a kind of financial aid that is non-repayable. However, there are also kinds of grants that require repayment. Some of the common grants to apply for are Pell Grants, Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.

Work-Study Programs

Under the Federal Work-Study program, financially needy undergraduate and graduate students can work part-time jobs and earn money to help cover their educational costs. The program encourages community service and jobs relating to the student’s field of study. Work-study programs can be acquired from schools, private businesses, and offices. You can study and work part-time. This is available to students with financial needs at all levels of education, including undergraduates, graduates, and professionals.

Some educational institutions may have contracts for work-study positions with for-profit, commercial companies. These positions have to at least relate to your field of study. The key is to look for programs within your school that offer work-study settings.


Your school’s financial assistance offer may include loans if you apply for financial aid. Money borrowed that you have to repay with interest is called a loan. Every loan has specific terms and conditions, so it’s best to read and be aware of these beforehand. Banks, financial institutions, and other entities can offer student loans. But unlike bank or commercial loans, federal student loans usually have more benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the biggest factor in applying for financial aid?

The two main variables the FAFSA uses to assess your financial need are assets and income. Your family’s high relative income might mean that you get less financial assistance than a family with a comparatively low income since your anticipated family contribution will be greater, according to the results of the FAFSA.

What kind of financial aid is the least desirable and should be your last option?

As you presumably know, loans are sums of money you borrow in exchange for an interest charge that accrues over time and increases until the loan is paid off in full. Even though loans have the highest possible interest rate of any funding source on the list of financial aid, they are occasionally necessary and, hence, the least ideal option.

How can you apply for financial aid?

When you pick up your application form from the college admissions office, you ought to ask about financial aid. There are times when you might be able to participate in an official exchange program between the university you now attend and the university you want to attend in the United States. Ask early about their financial aid options and the processes involved.