Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
Photo courtesy of Amherst College
The deal: No student loans required.
This liberal arts college has an overwhelming sticker price of about $60,000 per year, but Amherst also offers equally eye-popping financial aid packages. One of several "no loans" schools, Amherst and institutions like it meet 100 percent of a student's demonstrated financial need with grants, scholarships and student employment opportunities. That doesn't mean the school is free -- families still need to apply for financial aid and pay their expected family contribution -- but it does mean students will carry minimal debt relative to their family's income and assets. Despite the enormous sticker price, families with incomes up to $75,000 pay an average net price of about $12,000 per year, reports the National Center for Education Statistics. The average financial aid award is about $47,000.
No-loans schools are generally pricey private institutions, but they can be an amazing deal for low-income, middle-income and even upper-middle-income families. A handful of private institutions, including Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine; Columbia University in New York City; and Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, maintain no-loans policies. A greater number of schools uphold no-loans initiatives for families under a certain income threshold.