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Amherst College, Massachusetts
Amherst College, Amherst, Mass. | Photo courtesy of Amherst College

Amherst College, Massachusetts

The deal: No student loans required.

This liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, has an overwhelming sticker price of about $65,000 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% 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 pay an average net price of about $12,000 per year, reports the university. The average financial aid award is about $47,000.

No-loans schools are generally costly 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.

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