Cost is now the #1 factor when it comes to choosing a college.
As a new application season begins, families are increasingly concerned about rising tuition fees and whether a four-year degree is worth it.
For the 2021-2022 academic year, tuition and annual fees as well as room and board at public institutions across the state averaged $22,690, while at four-tier private universities years, they averaged $51,690, according to the College Board.
This year, some colleges are raising tuition by as much as 5%, citing inflation and other concerns.
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However, around two-thirds of all full-time students receive aid, which can lower the net price significantly compared to official tuition rates. According to the College Board, your net price is college tuition and fees minus educational grants, scholarships, and tax benefits.
“The greatest fear of students and parents is taking on too much debt for college,” said Robert Franek, editor of The Princeton Review and author of “The Best 388 Colleges.”
“But striking an expensive school off your list from the start is tragically flawed,” he said. “So many schools are doing the near-impossible that doesn’t require a student or their family to mortgage their future to pay for their education.”
To that end, The Princeton Review has ranked colleges based on the amount of financial aid given and student satisfaction with their packages. Princeton Review’s “Best Colleges for 2023” report is based on data collected from 160,000 student surveys.
The best schools for financial aid are all private and have exorbitant prices, including tuition, fees, room and board, yet their very generous assistance programs bring the net price down considerably.
When it comes to offering help, private institutions usually have more money to spend, Franek said.
“These schools recognize ‘yes, college is expensive, but we’re going to make it as affordable as possible,'” Franek said. It might even end up being cheaper than your local public college, he added.
Among the top 25 schools on the list, the average need-based scholarship awarded to private school undergraduate students is $47,527.
Top 10 Colleges for Financial Aid
Here are the colleges that made The Princeton Review’s top 10:
10. College of the Atlantic
Source: College of the Atlantic
Location: Bar Harbor, Maine
Sticker Price: $54,576
Average need-based scholarship: $36,223
Total expenses: $18,353
Over 80% of COA students receive some form of financial aid in the form of merit- and need-based scholarships and up to $1,800 in additional support for travel-related experiential learning.
9. Skidmore College
Tai | CC Flickr
Location: Saratoga Springs, NY
Sticker Price: $76,220
Average need-based scholarship: $47,992
Total expenses: $28,228
Skidmore stands out because it meets 100% demonstrated need for all students and the average package is nearly $50,000.
8. Grinnell College
Younker Hall on the Grinnell College campus.
wolter | Getty Images
Location: Grinnel, Iowa
Sticker Price: $76,528
Average need-based scholarship: $52,847
Total expenses: $23,681
This private liberal arts college is committed to 100% loan-free demonstrated need so that graduates are debt-free. Now 89% of students receive aid to pay for their years at Grinnell.
7. Thomas Aquinas College
Thomas Aquinas College
Source: Thomas Aquinas College
Location: Santa Paula, California
Sticker Price: $36,990
Average need-based scholarship: $13,326
Total expenses: $23,574
This very small Catholic school outside of Los Angeles aims to fund 100% of proven need for all students with the help of contributions from individuals and charitable foundations.
6. Rice University
Craig Hartley | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sticker Price: $67,695
Average need-based scholarship: $53,221
Total expenses: $14,474
This private research university in Texas’ largest city was originally founded as a tuition-free institution and remains committed to affordability. Students with a household income of less than $75,000 now receive a scholarship that covers not only full tuition, but also room and board. Students with family income between $75,000 and $140,000 receive full scholarships and those with family income between $140,000 and $200,000 receive scholarships covering at least half of their fees tuition, depending on the school.
5. Bowdoin College
Statue of Joshua Chamberlain at the entrance to the Bowdoin campus in Brunswick, Maine.
Gregory Rec | Portland Press Herald | Getty Images
Location: Brunswick, Maine
Sticker Price: $74,220
Average need-based scholarship: $55,010
Total expenses: $19,210
This small liberal arts school on the coast of Maine stopped using loans in its financial aid programs more than a decade ago, replacing them with grants. Today, nearly half of students receive college scholarships.
4. California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) signage stands on the campus in Pasadena, California,
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Location: Pasadena, California
Sticker Price: $71,244
Average need-based scholarship: $49,806
Total expenses: $21,438
Most of the financial aid awarded to undergraduate students at Caltech comes from grants, which are need-based, so they do not have to be earned or repaid.
3. Washington University in St. Louis
Brookings Hall at Washington University in St. Louis.
Stephen Ehlers | Getty Images
Location: Saint Louis
Sticker Price: $79,060
Average need-based scholarship: $54,663
Total expenses: $24,397
At first glance, Wash U. is one of the most expensive schools on The Princeton Review list. However, this Missouri school is also committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need.
2. Williams College
Barry Winiker | Getty Images
Location: Williamstown, MA
Sticker Price: $77,300
Average need-based scholarship: $51,521
Total expenses: $25,779
This fall, Williams is eliminating loans, as well as on-campus and summer jobs from its financial aid programs. The school also guarantees free textbooks, health insurance, and even optional funding to study abroad.
1. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt | Collegiate Images | Getty Images
Location: Nashville, TN
Sticker Price: $68,980
Average need-based scholarship: $52,242
Total expenses: $16,738
Vanderbilt’s commitment to loan avoidance means the university is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need with financial aid and reasonable professional study requirements.
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