57 ‘No Loan Colleges’ to Help You Avoid Student Debt

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A so-called “no loans college” is exactly what it sounds like: It helps students afford their cost of attendance without resorting to student loans. Campus financial aid offices accomplish this feat by connecting students with gift aid like grants and scholarships, as well as with work-study programs.

Fortunately, there are dozens of “no loan colleges” around the country, though each has its own unique criteria for receiving a loan-free financial aid package. Some institutions limit their policy to students based on their income or home state, for example.

The get a sense of the “no loans” landscape, let’s look at the following topics:

‘No loan colleges,’ explained

America’s collective student loan debt stands at $1.71 trillion and growing, and many colleges and universities have decided they want no part of increasing that figure.

Through no-loan policies, these schools’ financial aid offices promise not to employ federal, institutional or private student loans to help you meet your cost of attendance. They replace debt with scholarships, grants and work-study opportunities, plus parent contributions when possible.

To be clear: If you decide to borrow money, these “no loan colleges” won’t stop you. Stanford University’s financial aid office, for example, says that it will assist you in securing a loan if you decide you’d rather not spend the school year or summer working. (You might also resort to borrowing if your school’s no-loan package doesn’t cover the off-campus apartment or nonacademic expenses you might need to pay.)

Still, the following schools make the point that you don’t have to take on debt to take on higher education.

57 ‘no loan’ colleges and universities

Not all no-loan colleges have the same offering. Some promise to help all students bypass borrowing, while others assist only lower-income or in-state students avoid education debt.

‘No loan colleges’ for all students

These 21 no-loan colleges and universities — including some prestigious schools with need-blind admissions and healthy endowments — will help all incoming students avoid student debt.

1. Amherst College
2. Berea College
3. Bowdoin College
4. Brown University
5. Colby College
6. College of the Ozarks
7. Columbia University
8. Davidson College
9. Grinnell College
10. Harvard University
11. Johns Hopkins University
12. Northwestern University
13. Pomona College
14. Princeton University
15. Stanford University
16. Swarthmore College
17. University of Chicago
18. University of Pennsylvania
19. Vanderbilt University
20. Washington and Lee University
21. Yale University

‘No loan colleges’ for low-income students

These 17 schools reserve their no-loans policy for their lowest-income students. Each policy sets criteria for qualifying, including:

Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) would give these schools the information they need to determine your eligibility for a loan-free aid package.

No-loan colleges for low-income studentsHousehold income limits and guidelines
22. California Institute of Technology$60,000 and under
23. Colgate UniversityUp to $125,000
24. Connecticut CollegeContact school for details
25. Cornell UniversityUnder $60,000, with assets below $100,000, (including primary home equity)
26. Dartmouth CollegeUnder $100,000, with “typical assets”
27. Duke UniversityUnder $40,000
28. Emory University$50,000 or less
29. Haverford CollegeUnder $60,000
30. Lafayette CollegeUnder $50,000
31. Miami University (Ohio)$35,000 or less
32. Michigan State UniversityFederal poverty threshold
33. Rice University$130,000
34. Tufts UniversityUnder $40,000
35. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill200% of the poverty threshold or lower
36. Washington University in St. Louis$75,000 and under
37. Wellesley CollegeUnder $60,000
38. Wesleyan UniversityUnder $60,000

‘No loan colleges’ for in-state students

Aside from chasing in-state tuition, there’s another reason to attend the college or university in your own backyard. It could also come with no strings — er, loans — attached.

If you don’t mind staying close to home, check out the no-loans requirements for these 19 schools, rounding out our overall list of 57:

Arizona
California
Connecticut
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kentucky
Michigan
North Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Vermont
Virginia

Arizona

39. Arizona State University: Residents who are Pell Grant-eligible

40. University of Arizona: Residents with a household income $60,000 or less (or an EFC of 4,000 or less) who are eligible for a Pell Grant

California

41. University of California schools: Residents with a household income below $80,000

Connecticut

42. Fairfield University: Bridgeport, Conn., high school graduates with a household income below $50,000

Georgia

43. Georgia Institute of Technology: Residents whose parents earn less than $33,300 per year

Illinois

44. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Residents with a household income at or below $67,100 and assets up to $50,000

Indiana

45. Indiana University: Residents who completed the 21st Century Scholars application in middle school and fall within the income threshold for eligibility

Kentucky

46. University of Louisville: Residents with household income at or below 150% of the poverty threshold

Michigan

47. University of Michigan: Residents pursuing their first bachelor’s degree who have family income up to $65,000 and assets below $50,000

North Carolina

48. Appalachian State University: Residents attending school full time with a household income that is 100% of the federal poverty threshold (or less) and a zero EFC

Tennessee

49. Bryan College: Residents with a household income up to $36,000 who are pursuing their first bachelor’s degree

50. University of Tennessee: Residents with a household income of less than $50,000

Texas

51. Texas State University: Residents with a household income of $25,000 or less who are pursuing their first bachelor’s degree

52. Lamar University: Residents with a household income below $25,001 who are eligible for a Pell Grant

53. University of Texas at El Paso: Residents with a household income at $50,000 or less

54. University of Texas at Dallas: Residents with a household income $25,000 or less who are attending school full time and are eligible for Pell Grants

55. Texas A&M University: Residents with a household income of $60,000 or less

Vermont

56. University of Vermont: Residents who are eligible for a Pell Grant

Virginia

57. College of William and Mary: Residents with a household income below $40,000

How to qualify for the no-loans colleges on your list

The FAFSA is a crucial step to affording any college. It will set the benchmark of your EFC and potentially work in your favor as you seek financial aid not offered directly by schools, perhaps in the form of private scholarships and grants from your state.

Contact the financial aid offices of your preferred schools, whether they’re “no loan colleges” or not, to collect the latest information about their resources and support. You can determine what kind of aid you qualify for, and how to go about obtaining it.

If a handful of “no loan colleges” are on your college list and you’re eligible to benefit, you’re in luck. Keep in mind, however, that while generous aid could be handed out, gaining admission would still be up to you.

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