MONEY College

The 25 Public Colleges Where Students Graduate The Fastest

Final exercises, University of Virginia
Dan Addison—U.Va. Public Affairs At the University of Virginia, 86% of freshman graduation in four years.

The schools that will help you avoid the wasted time and added expense of spending a fifth year (or more) in the classroom.

One casualty of the ongoing budget problems and overcrowding at public colleges is speed. The average time public college students take to earn what used to be called a “four-year degree” is currently about 4.6 years.

In fact, only one third of public college students earn their bachelor’s degree in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

And that means the average in-state public college student is paying for an additional semester of tuition, room, board, and books—which is currently running about $12,000, according to College Board data.

Many private college students need more than four years to graduate as well, but on average, fully 53% of private college students earn their bachelors’ degree on time, 20 percentage points higher than the public college rate. (For the private colleges that graduate students the fastest, see our list of the top 50.)

One major cause of students’ slower progress at public colleges is underfunding. At some colleges, such as some low-cost California State University campuses, students complain they can’t get into the majors or classes they need to complete their degrees. At several CSU campuses, such as San Jose State University, students have almost no chance to finish on time.

But students also slow themselves down, research shows. Generally, schools that accept students with less-than-perfect high school records—such as open access public colleges—tend to have low four-year graduation rates. Many struggling students have to take remedial classes before they can handle college-level work, which adds a semester or two to their degree.

And students who change majors late in their college career may have to take additional requirements, which can force them to spend an extra semester or two at school. (You can read more about the simple strategies to help you graduate on time here.

These 25 public colleges have the best records of graduating students on time. They are ranked by four-year graduation rates in the table below, which also lists Money’s best college values ranking and our estimate of the average cost of a degree for an in-state student, after college scholarships and grants are subtracted.

College state Money ranking % of freshmen who earn a bachelor’s in 4 years Estimated average net cost of a degree for the class of 2019
1. University of Virginia-Main Campus VA 16 86% $96,963
2. College of William and Mary VA 60 83% $99,106
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill NC 40 81% $86,637
4. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor MI 22 76% $97,359
5. University of California-Berkeley CA 13 72% $130,629
6. The College of New Jersey NJ 53 72% $131,357
7. St Mary’s College of Maryland MD 319 71% $123,480
8. University of California-Los Angeles CA 31 69% $130,477
9. SUNY at Binghamton NY 162 69% $102,165
10. University of California-Irvine CA 32 68% $126,546
11. University of California-Santa Barbara CA 95 68% $135,233
12. University of Connecticut CT 120 68% $105,084
13. University of Delaware DE 66 68% $101,911
14. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign IL 76 68% $122,217
15. Miami University-Oxford OH 144 68% $128,987
16. University of Maryland-College Park MD 68 66% $102,069
17. SUNY College at Geneseo NY 359 66% $98,680
18. University of Mary Washington VA 107 66% $101,952
19. University of Florida FL 28 65% $89,572
20. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus PA 177 65% $147,090
21. James Madison University VA 53 65% $101,193
22. University of Vermont VT 300 65% $96,549
23. University of New Hampshire-Main Campus NH 261 64% $121,657
24. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus PA 319 64% $133,585
25. Citadel Military College of South Carolina SC 114 62% $98,671

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money calculations

TIME Opinion

Before You Pick a College, Decide If You Want to Go Greek

Fraternity house exterior
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images Fraternity house exterior

Why deciding whether to join a fraternity or sorority should be a major part of the college selection process

As the college acceptances roll in over the next few weeks, kids and parents will be making some tough decisions about which school to pick: city or country? Big school or small school? Close to home or far away?

But there’s a major consideration that few kids take seriously, one that’s almost as important as financial aid and academic opportunity. Lost in the frenzy about dorm style and class size and sports ranking is one factor that could have an enormous effect on you for the next four years: Greek life.

The truth is, deciding to join a fraternity or sorority is as much about the campus dynamic as it is about a student’s own preferences. At a campus with a prominent Greek scene, so much of the social scene is dominated by fraternities and sororities that deciding not to join may have social consequences. That’s why students should decide how they feel about Greek life before they pick a campus, not after.

Because once you get to school, it may feel like that decision has been made for you. On a heavily Greek campus, choosing not to join can affect your housing and dining options as well as your social life. At many schools, the choice is virtually nonexistent: at University of Texas Pan-American, 100% of women on campus are in sororities and 99% of men are in fraternities, at Washington and Lee University, 82% of men and women go Greek. This kind of overwhelming majority is rare, but Greek life can still feel pervasive even at campuses with far lower rates of enrollment: at the University of Oklahoma, which has recently been embroiled in scandal over a racist chant sung by frat brothers, only 26% of male students are in frats.

True, the vast majority of people who participate in Greek life are thoughtful, productive members of society with no interest in racist chants or hazing anybody to death. Most fraternities and sororities were originally founded as philanthropic organizations, and many still make enormous contributions to their communities. But as we’ve seen recently, it can take just a few bad apples to change the way fraternity members behave as a group.

Going Greek can be risky business. In the last two weeks, five national fraternity chapters have been suspended for unethical and possibly illegal behavior. First, Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat brothers at University of Oklahoma were taped singing a racist chant that resulted in the suspension of the chapter and the expulsion of two members. Then, the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho was suspended after police found a secret Facebook page full of pictures of nude, passed out women– an incident which could lead to criminal charges. The University of South Carolina chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was suspended Wednesday after the suspicious death of a student, the same day the University of Houston closed its Sigma Chi chapter after allegations of hazing. And last week, Washington & Lee suspended their chapter of Phi Kappa Psi over allegations that frat brothers hazed pledges with tasers. And that’s not even getting started on the sexual assault statistics: multiple studies have shown that men who join fraternities are statistically more likely to commit rape than men who don’t.

You might be thinking: how could anybody behave like that? But when you join a Greek organization, personal responsibility can get diluted into the group mindset. “People lose their sense of individuality when they become a member of a group,” explains Dr. Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “Although a group is comprised of individuals, the individuals don’t necessarily think for themselves.”

Even Will Ferrell, a former brother of Delta Tau Delta who played an overgrown frat boy in the movie Old School, thinks fraternities are problematic. “The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity,” he said in a Q&A with the New York Times. “Because when you break it down, it really is about creating cliques and clubs and being exclusionary.”

And if you want to avoid that atmosphere, your best bet might be to avoid campuses where the Greek scene rules–the Princeton Review lists the schools that have the most Greek life, and US News & World Report lists the schools with the highest percentage of students in frats and sororities.

But even on campuses where fewer than half the students rush, Greek life can feel ubiquitous. “Going into school I didn’t really have any exposure to Greek life,” says Dylan Tucker, a senior psychology major at Cornell University who chose not to rush a frat. “But once I got here, I was a little bit surprised at how prominent Greek life was, how many people who were in frats.” At Cornell, only 27% of men are in fraternities, but it can feel like much more than that.

Tucker was able to make friends through the basketball scene, but he says if you’re not in a frat, it can be hard to meet people unless you participate in another activity. “If you don’t plan on being in a frat or sorority, people should be aware that it can affect your ability to make friends,” he says. “If you’re going to a school that has a very prominent Greek life, be aware that you will be excluded from a lot of events and things.”

So when it comes to going Greek, you can be damned if you do, damned if you don’t: joining can lead to risky situations, but resisting can feel isolating. That’s why you should decide on Greek life before you decide on a campus, so the choice is actually up to you.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The prison system is costly and rarely rehabilitates prisoners. Imagine a better way to transition inmates to freedom.

By Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, & Ross Halperin in Vox

2. Lawmakers should listen to the budget hawks, not the defense hawks.

By Robert Gard and Angela Canterbury in Defense One

3. For teenage girls, it’s possible to shift “attention bias” — literally focusing them on happy faces instead of sad ones — and fight the risk of depression.

By Jennifer Kahn in Pacific Standard

4. The next generation of American workers isn’t prepared to take over the jobs of departing baby boomers. The cost of this failure will be enormous.

By Jennifer Bradley in the Brookings Essay

5. As a four-year college education slips further out of reach, community college has some important lessons to teach us.

By Josh Wyner in the Miami Herald

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

These 8 March Madness Apps Are a Slam Dunk

Kentucky v Arkansas
Andy Lyons—Getty Images Tyler Ulis #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes to the basket as Rashad Madden #00 of the Arkansas Razorbacks defends during the championship game of the SEC basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 15, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

These sure-shots will get you in the games you love

With the tip-off of the NCAA’s national men’s basketball championship tournament, all eyes and ears are pointed towards the hardwood Thursday, whether you’re perched in a corner office or cheering from some nosebleed seats. But wherever you watch the games from, your experience will no doubt be enhanced by a second screen where March Madness apps can do everything from keep track of your bracket to stream live video of the action.

Here are eight great March Madness apps worth loading into your tablet or smartphone:

Bracket The Madness

If you’re a fan of the dark horse or the underdog, this is the app you’re rooting for this March. A breakaway hit among basketball fans, this app lets people create their own pools which can be shared with Facebook friends or even via text.

And while you might’ve missed out on most of this app’s magic after the initial tip-off, it’s also got an easy to read bracket that’s updated live (ideal for staying in the loop on hoops as the month goes on) and a fun, beat-the-clock game where you try to pick the winner of all of 2014’s tournament games. (It’s even hard to pick the winners after the game has ended.)

Bracket The Madness is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

CBS Sports

Whether you load this onto a tablet or a smartphone, this play-maker can do it all: scoring big with great, succinct analysis of the games (before and after tip-off), or passing you off to the NCAA March Madness Live app (see below) for live, in-game video. Though it overs all major sports, the app excels in its college basketball coverage, with links to breaking news, its blog, and expert picks.

CBS Sports is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Fanatic

Wherever life has brought you, it’s probably far from your alma mater. No bother — with Fanatic, you can find fan-friendly watering holes where you can enjoy a game in the company of people who bleed the same sports colors that you do.

Now, truth be told, this app isn’t as accurate as I’d like it to be. When using its location-based search to find a nearby bar for my team, it didn’t give top-billing the one I know to be the home court for my town’s displaced fans. So, if you’re hoping to find the best spot, I’d recommend pairing Fanatic with a Google search for maximum effect. But it’s good for every major sport, so don’t delete this app after they cut down the nets.

Fanatic is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Sports Betting

If I were a betting man — and I am not — I’d put my money on this app when it comes to sizing up the individual March Madness match-ups. Sure, there may be more comprehensive odds-making apps out there, but for the casual fan (which includes most people who get swept up in basketball hysteria each March), Sports Betting provides clear information on the money line, point spread, and total points. And by simply tapping on the figures, the app shows you how much you’d win if you put down a bet — which you would do for entertainment purposes only, of course.

Sports Betting is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

NCAA March Madness Live

No matter what television station the game is on, it’s also available to watch live on the NCAA’s official app. Free to download, the app requires you to log in with your cable provider information to watch the games. (Don’t be fooled by the app’s free, temporary preview — you will have to log in.)

The best way to get the hardwood action at your office or even on-the-go, the app goes beyond the live game streams, offering a great array of behind-the-scenes videos and historical highlights. And setting it up with notifications is another great way to stay up to speed on the scores, right from the source, while doing other things (like your job).

NCAA March Madness Live is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Thuuz

Watching all sixty-seven games is a big commitment, but Thuuz helps make it more manageable by telling you when the action is heating up. Rating games on a scale of 0-100, it tells sports fans of all stripes whether a game is worth watching. But once the first whistle blows, the app adjusts those ratings in real-time, telling, for example, if a low-ranked underdog who was expected to be blown out is in the mix to pull off a fantastic upset. In addition, the app can track your favorite teams and even your fantasy football and baseball players, so you can turn on the TV when they’re having a game for the ages.

Thuuz is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

TuneIn Radio

Radio may be a shorter-wave technology, but TuneIn takes it worldwide with their streaming of local stations. By dumping a video stream for an audio play-by-play, the app will let you focus on the job at-hand, whether you’re a truck driver or a desk jockey. And TuneIn has a lot of live game broadcasts available — check out this link for what’s airing right now — which means even if you can’t watch the game, you don’t have to miss a minute of the action.

TuneIn Radio is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

WatchESPN

Okay, so the worldwide leader in sports may not be broadcasting the NCAA games, but you know they are drooling over the highlights, digesting the effects of the surprise outcomes, and breaking down all the daily news. To watch the network’s channels (which include everything from the flagship station to the ESPN SEC Network), you’ll need a cable company log-in. But once you get past that gatekeeper, the only thing keeping you from watching as many basketball highlights as you can handle is your bandwidth. (Speaking of that, you might want to only use this app on Wi-Fi, because it will crush your wireless data budget.)

WatchESPN is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

MONEY College

Why Harvard Will Win the NCAA Tournament

150319_FF_MarchMadnessHarvard
Hunter Martin—Getty Images Fans of the Harvard Crimson celebrate a win over the Yale Bulldogs in mid-March. Just imagine how excited they will be in Indianapolis in April if we're right.

Sure, the No. 13 seed in the West is a long shot. But our March Madness bracket favors colleges that produce alumni who win the financial tournament of life.

For the three weeks known as March Madness, college basketball fans focus on stats like field goal percentages or player efficiency. But we here at MONEY try to stay sane and pay attention to the numbers that matter over the long term.

So when we filled out this year’s NCAA men’s tournament bracket, we picked teams based on our Best Colleges rankings, which look at which schools do best in terms of affordability, quality of education, and graduating students into good-paying jobs. In other words, if we gathered these players and their classmates together again in, say, 25 or 50 years, who would likely be on the best financial footing?

This gave us an unorthodox final four of Harvard (6th in our value rankings, while a 13th seed in the tournament), Notre Dame (20th), Virginia (16th), and UCLA (31st), with Harvard besting Virginia in Indianapolis on April 6.

That Harvard is the overall winner is not exactly surprisingly: 97% of students graduate, there have been no recent defaulters on student loans, and the average recent graduate is earning about $55,000 a year these days, according to data from Payscale.com. But the elite private colleges don’t dominate in this bracket or in life. Two of our final four are public universities–Virginia and UCLA–which also have graduation rates above 90% and whose recent alumni typically earn about $50,000 a year.

Looking for this year’s Cinderella story? Manhattan (40th), the rightful winner of the play-in game against Hampton under our system, is predicted to oust undefeated Kentucky (389th) in the first round and go all the way to the Elite Eight. Another sixteen seed makes history in our bracket, as Lafayette College (28th) knocks off Villanova (114th) in the first round and hangs on until the Elite Eight as well.

There are some squeakers along the way. Schools within 20 places of each other in our ranking are roughly equivalent. But, strictly by our numbers, pricey, exclusive Lafayette edges out public and relatively affordable UC Irvine (32nd) in the Sweet 16 round. Lafayette Leopards tend to graduate into higher-paying jobs than do Irvine Anteaters (a difference of about $8,000 a year, according to Payscale), but they pay much more for their degrees. The average Leopard pays a total of $178,000 (after college scholarships are subtracted) for a bachelor’s degree, versus the Anteaters’ total bill of about $123,000.

Under our college value selection system, Brigham Young (9th) not only makes the roster of 64 teams but goes all the way to the Elite Eight before running up against unstoppable Harvard. Other notables in our bracket: Perennial basketball powerhouse Duke (32nd) barely makes it past Georgetown (37th) in the Sweet 16 before falling to UCLA. But high seeds like Gonzaga (177), Arizona (99), and Kansas (248) stumble early in the tournament.

To see how your college ranks in the competition of life, check out our full college rankings. Dig into our full NCAA bracket below (click the image to see a larger version).

MoneyBracket 3-18b

 

MONEY Student Loans

5 Little-Known Ways to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

mortarboard on top of money
Shutterstock

Here are some student loans forgiveness programs that you might not have even known about. Do you qualify?

If you’re like most people, your student loans probably feel a bit like a ball and chain that you’ve been dragging through your life for years. Every month, you dutifully make a payment knowing that you’ll be making that same payment next month, the month after that, and so on. But what if you didn’t have to? What if there was a way to get your student loans forgiven?

It turns out that there are many ways to get federal student loans forgiven. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report in 2013 estimating that more than one-quarter of working Americans are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but only a small percentage are actually using it.

Programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program are relatively well known. However, there are some lesser-known programs that may also help you pay down your loans.

Here are five ways to say goodbye to your student loans that you might not have even known about. If you’re not eligible for any of them, there are still other ways to lessen your student loan burden – such as through student loan consolidation, refinancing your loans, or by picking the right federal or private student loan repayment plans.

1. Loan Forgiveness Programs for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a doctor or a nurse, there is probably somewhere in the country where you could get a significant amount of your student loans forgiven in exchange for your service. From federal programs like the Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program that helps health care professionals serving in the military repay up to $50,000 in loans per year of service, to the Maine Dental Loan Repayment Program which pays up to $20,000 a year for serving an underserved area, there are many ways to get your loans repaid.

2. Perkins Loan Cancellation & Discharge

Did you get Perkins loans to pay for college? Well, then that’s good news for you. Borrowers of Perkins loans can have their entire debt forgiven after five years if they fit certain criteria. The professions that qualify for forgiveness are fairly broad and include anything from an attorney to a librarian, to even a speech pathologist. Check it out to see if your job fits the bill.

3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

Great news if you’re a teacher who is willing to work in underserved areas – there are several student loan forgiveness programs tailored to you. Many states offer awards specifically to draw teachers to underserved areas. Not only can you make a difference, but you can pay off your student loans while doing it.

4. Volunteering

SponsorChange.org is a nonprofit organization that helps graduates pay off student loans in return for volunteer work. Donors give money to projects or nonprofits to help them recruit volunteers and those volunteers get great work experience while also lessening their student loan burden.

5. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

While no one plans to be disabled, it’s good to know that if you have a terrible accident that your student loans could be forgiven. If you have a condition that prevents you from working that has lasted for more than 60 months or can be expected to last for more than 60 months, then you may be able to get your student loans discharged.

The Bottom Line

If you’re having trouble paying your student loans, it’s important to find a workable solution so you don’t default on them. For the most part, student loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy, and falling behind on your payments can hurt your credit and may even lead to wage garnishment. (If you want to see how your student loans are affecting your credit, you can get a free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

There are many more people eligible for student loan forgiveness programs who don’t take advantage of them. One important thing to remember — if you do get your student loans forgiven, you will then owe taxes on the amount forgiven. The IRS counts forgiven student loans as income; so while you might be able to escape your student loans, you definitely can’t escape taxes.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME Higher Education

This Graduate Is Refusing to Pay Back Her Student Loans

"By using our debt as leverage, we’re making our voices heard"

A recent graduate of a for-profit college’s nursing program is refusing to pay back her federal student loans, saying the school defrauded her.

Mallory Heiney says her 12-month nursing program at Everest Institute, a Grand Rapids, Mich. school owned by Corinthian Colleges, failed to adequately prepare her for the state nursing licensing exam and put her $24,000 in debt. In a column in the Washington Post, Heiney writes that thousands of students were caught in Everest’s “debt trap.” She and several other students who have dubbed themselves the Corinthian 15 are demanding that the Department of Education discharge their federal loans.

“By using our debt as leverage, we’re making our voices heard,” Heiney wrote. “We are not asking for a handout. We are demanding justice for students ensnared in a debt trap.”

Heiney said she was inspired by Susan B. Anthony’s advocacy for women’s suffrage and by Rosa Parks’ efforts to end racial discrimination.

Corinthian Colleges, which once operated more than 100 campuses across the country, began shutting down much of its operations and selling off its assets last summer following a Department of Education investigation into its educational and financial practices.

Joe Hixson, a spokesman for Corinthian, noted that the vast majority of the students from Heiney’s nursing program successfully graduated, including Heiney herself, and that most of these students successfully passed the nursing licensing exam. “Recent criticism of Corinthian Colleges wrongly disparage the career services assistance that we offer our graduates and mischaracterize both the purpose and practices of the ‘Genesis’ lending program,” he wrote in an email, referring to Corinthian’s private student loan program.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the agency worked with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide $480 million in loan forgiveness for borrowers who took out loans through Corinthian. However, she also encouraged students to continue paying back their outstanding loans to avoid default.

TIME College

Penn State Frat Suspended Over Facebook Photos of Nude, Unconscious Women

Page featured images of nude, passed out women and drug sales

A fraternity at Pennsylvania State University has been suspended after police accused members of operating a secret Facebook page that featured photos of naked women apparently taken when they were unconscious.

According to WJAC, police in State College, Pa. were given a tip about two Facebook pages where members of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity allegedly posted images of drug transactions, hazing, and partially nude women. The women in the images appeared to be “passed out or sleeping,” according to police.

The Facebook pages, titled “Covert Business Transactions” and “2.0,” were invite-only. After the “Covert” page was shut down, “2.0” appeared in its place. The page had at least 150 members, including current students and alumni.

The Penn State Interfraternity Council said in a statement it has suspended the full chapter and it will undergo a “conduct review session.”

[WJAC]

Read next: The Historical Roots of Fraternity Racism

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY College

The 50 Best Private Colleges for Earning Your Degree On Time

150316_FF_FastestDegree
iStock

There aren't many "super seniors" at these private schools, where almost every student earns a bachelor's degree in just four years—and avoids the high cost of a longer stay.

Paying four years’ worth of college tuition is hard enough. But too many parents and students don’t realize that there’s a good chance they’ll have to pay for five, since 45% of full-time students need at least an extra year of school to earn a bachelor’s degree, according to Judith Scott-Clayton, an economist at Teachers College, Columbia University.

That common miscalculation can be “devastating” to a family’s finances, says Jim Briggs, a founder of Reducing College Costs, a private financial aid consulting firm. Since an extra year at a private college can easily cost more than $50,000 these days, “we are talking about a lot of money,” Briggs adds.

Before committing to a college, you should check the four-year graduation rate with the U.S. Department of Education. If the rate is low, ask the college and some students why that is, Briggs advises.

While students themselves cause many delays—by flunking required courses or changing majors late in their college careers—some schools do an especially good job of helping students get the courses they need to finish up in four years, saving parents that unpleasant surprise of a fifth year’s worth of bills, Briggs says.

At these 50 private colleges, you’ll have the best chance of graduating on time. At all of them, the average student graduates in 4 to 4.1 years, and more than 80% of the student body earns a bachelor’s degree within those four years. This list, ranked by four-year graduation rate, also includes Money’s best college values ranking and our estimate of how much the degree will cost if you get the typical amount of financial aid.

Your net cost will be lower if you take advantage of, say, federal education tax credits, or if you receive scholarships from private organizations or federal, state, or local government agencies. It will be higher if you don’t receive any financial aid.

College State Money ranking % of freshmen who earn a bachelor’s in 4 years Estimated average net cost of a degree for class of 2019
1) Pomona College CA 50 93% $167,662
2) Haverford College PA 122 91% $187,297
3) Yale University CT 15 90% $188,279
4) University of Notre Dame IN 20 90% $190,073
5) Williams College MA 14 90% $173,630
6) Carleton College MN 79 90% $183,529
7) Davidson College NC 72 90% $170,095
8) Vassar College NY 129 90% $159,658
9) Hamilton College NY 101 90% $187,252
10) Amherst College MA 17 89% $161,350
11) Boston College MA 122 89% $207,603
12) College of the Holy Cross MA 101 89% $191,814
13) Colby College ME 86 89% $195,668
14) Swarthmore College PA 32 89% $180,033
15) Georgetown University DC 37 88% $210,612
16) University of Chicago IL 101 88% $194,477
17) Bowdoin College ME 44 88% $185,213
18) Bates College ME 150 88% $199,275
19) Washington University in St Louis MO 62 88% $218,216
20) Princeton University NJ 4 88% $150,602
21) University of Pennsylvania PA 11 88% $207,659
22) Harvard University MA 6 87% $186,658
23) Tufts University MA 72 87% $207,047
24) Johns Hopkins University MD 107 87% $216,263
25) Duke University NC 32 87% $198,588
26) Dartmouth College NH 24 87% $194,752
27) Cornell University NY 24 87% $200,157
28) Colgate University NY 27 87% $192,119
29) Bucknell University PA 45 87% $204,082
30) Vanderbilt University TN 50 87% $165,615
31) Middlebury College VT 47 87% $208,897
32) Harvey Mudd College CA 7 86% $193,324
33) Wesleyan University CT 169 86% $199,874
34) Northwestern University IL 129 86% $206,162
35) Brandeis University MA 248 86% $197,555
36) Columbia University in the City of New York NY 22 86% $212,954
37) Kenyon College OH 94 86% $196,119
38) Villanova University PA 114 86% $202,283
39) Washington and Lee University VA 39 86% $153,859
40) Macalester College MN 214 85% $143,259
41) Lafayette College PA 28 85% $183,806
42) Claremont McKenna College CA 47 84% $202,642
43) Emory University GA 156 84% $217,059
44) Babson College MA 1 84% $204,884
45) Massachusetts Institute of Technology MA 3 84% $159,316
46) Wellesley College MA 95 84% $170,844
47) Franklin and Marshall College PA 248 84% $196,727
48) Brown University RI 19 84% $197,789
49) Occidental College CA 285 83% $191,630
50) St Olaf College MN 359 83% $139,836
MONEY College

The 10 Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid

Vanderbilt University
courtesy of Vanderbilt University At Vanderbilt University, the average merit award tops $20,000.

These top schools offer enough money to cover students' financial needs—and hand out award ample merit grants to high achievers too.

If you need a lot of financial help to pay for college, you’ll have much better odds at a schools that has a generous aid budget.

Unfortunately, these days that’s a small group. The average college provides only enough scholarships or grants to meet 70% of what low- and moderate-income students need to pay the bills, according to data provided by the colleges to Peterson’s.

In all, only 64 colleges in the country say they hand out enough aid to meet the full demonstrated financial need of every regularly admitted undergraduate, according to Peterson’s data. And many members of that elite group, including schools in the Ivy League, don’t provide a penny in merit scholarships. That means no scholarships to students who don’t qualify for need-based aid, no matter their academic achievements.

So Money crunched financial-aid data to find the 10 schools on our Best College Values list that not only provide 100% of the scholarship money they think you need, but also have large merit-aid budgets to help high-achieving, wealthier students.

It’s important, however, to be realistic about what’s “generous.” When colleges say they “meet full demonstrated need,” that doesn’t mean they give everybody full-tuition scholarships. Colleges first calculate how much they think your family can afford to pay (also known as the “expected family contribution”), using the financial information you provide on the FAFSA or the College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid Profile.

On top of that number, many colleges add an expectation that students will take out loans and earn a few thousand dollars a year. The difference between the total expected student and parent contribution and the cost of the college is your “need.” That’s the amount that the most generous colleges will provide in need-based scholarships. Merit scholarships are awarded without regard to your family’s financial situation. (For tips on how to appeal for additional aid, click here.)

School Money rank Avg. est. total family education-related debt Est. average net price of a degree % of students who get merit awards Average merit grant
Vanderbilt University 49 $6,649 $160,791 10% $23,789
Rice University 20 $8,447 $149,851 15% $11,833
Duke University 32 $9,694 $192,804 12% $19,823
Davidson College 72 $10,842 $165,141 6% $22,246
Grinnell College 144 $11,325 $123,981 15% $15,093
University of Chicago 106 $12,986 $188,813 17% $10,205
Kenyon College 94 $13,313 $190,407 13% $13,040
University of Richmond 120 $14,317 $157,221 16% $23,300
Washington and Lee University 39 $15,270 $149,377 8% $35,060
Harvey Mudd College 7 $17,736 $187,694 20% $9,743

Notes: Average total estimated debt is federal student debt and parent Plus loan borrowing per graduating senior; net price for freshman starting in the fall of 2014.

Sources: Peterson’s, U.S. Department of Education, Money calculations.

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