Need-Blind Colleges: These 6 Prestigious Schools Can Help You Avoid Student Loans

 August 29, 2020
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If you can’t visualize how you’ll pay for an expensive and prestigious university, check to see if it’s among need-blind colleges.

The six universities that pair need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid are joined by dozens of other programs that offer one feature or the other.

Let’s review how need-blind colleges benefit students and dive deeper into six need-blind schools.

How need-blind colleges benefit students

Believe it or not, when you apply for college, most admissions officers hold your application in one hand — and your FAFSA in the other.

After all, your FAFSA — or Free Application for Federal Student Aid — shows how much money your family could reasonably put toward the cost of your attendance, an amount officially designated as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

With this information handy, schools inevitably accept or deny some applicants based partly on how those students would affect the institution’s bottom line.

At need-blind colleges with a healthy endowment, however, the admissions department doesn’t consider your family’s financials at all. Their decision on whether to accept you is made regardless of your FAFSA and EFC.

Once you’re “in,” your level of need comes back into play — and it could help you cover the cost of attendance.

6 need-blind colleges offering need-based financial aid

Keep in mind that “need” is the key word here. You probably won’t receive a full ride to a top school if your FAFSA does in fact pump out a high EFC.

In other words, just because a school is among need-blind colleges doesn’t mean it won’t encourage you to borrow federal and private student loans to pay for tuition and other fees.

That’s where the following six schools stand out from other colleges with generous aid packages. They not only disregard your family’s finances when evaluating your application — they’ll also get you the funding you need so you won’t have to borrow as much, or at all.

1. Amherst College
2. Harvard University
3. Johns Hopkins University
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
5. Princeton University
6. Yale University

1. Amherst College

Amherst College’s price tag for the 2020-2021 school year surpassed $82,000 when accounting for nonacademic expenses like housing and transportation.

But with some students from lower-income backgrounds receiving free or almost full rides, the average Amherst student reeled in $58,000 of financial aid during the 2019-2020 school year.

The need-blind college has wholly replaced loans with scholarships and grants, as well as six to eight hours of weekly employment on or off campus.

If you’re eyeing this private liberal arts school, you can even skip its application fees if you’re a first-generation student or have an annual household income of less than $65,000.

2. Harvard University

After admitting applicants regardless of their financial need, Harvard University considers need before merit when dispensing aid.

The Ivy League need-blind school employs its nearly $41 billion endowment proportionally for students based on their family’s income level:

Family income Parent contribution
Less than $65,000 0%
Between $65,000 and $150,000 0% to 10% of their income
$150,000 or higher 10% or more of their income

With its “no loans required” declaration, a typical financial aid package to attend Harvard, for example, includes a parent’s help, scholarships and student employment.

3. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins joined the exclusive need-blind, no-loans club, thanks to alumnus and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion donation in November 2018.

The university became “a loan-free institution” by the fall of 2019, replacing debt with scholarships financed by Bloomberg’s gift.

As a result, America’s self-proclaimed “first research university” has suddenly become much more affordable. The annual cost of tuition alone — ignoring all the other costs of college — hovered around $57,000 for the 2020-2021 school year.

Unlike other need-blind colleges on this list, however, Johns Hopkins does fall short of “need-blindness” for international students. Instead, it notes that it is “need-aware” for this group of applicants, taking finances into account when deciding whether to admit nonresidents.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

This world-renowned university is similarly expensive, with a sticker price of $73,160 for the 2019-2020 academic year when including room, board and other school costs.

Still, as a need-blind college with a need-based financial aid program, MIT makes it possible for any top student to enroll and graduate without student debt.

About 76% of MIT undergrads left school debt-free. But that’s where the tech giant of a school falls a bit short of its peers mentioned in this article: Its need-based aid options span scholarships, grants and job opportunities — but also loans.

With that said, members of MIT’s Class of 2019 left campus with an average of $13,481 in education debt, less than half the national trend ($29,900), according to our student loan statistics.

5. Princeton University

You don’t have to worry that your grade point average is good enough to get into need-blind college — but not good enough to receive financial aid. Your access to grants will depend on your gross family income, as the school doesn’t offer merit-based assistance.

It has also set a clear threshold for Class of 2023 students: If your household earns $160,000 or less annually, you’ll typically pay no tuition.

With an endowment approaching $25 billion, you can also expect Princeton’s generous policies to hold steady until your children — and perhaps grandchildren — apply for college, too.

6. Yale University

Like Amherst and Johns Hopkins, Yale goes the distance, seeking to guarantee a loan-free college experience.

Plus, this need-blind college doesn’t expect parents earning less than $75,000 in combined income to contribute a cent toward their student’s cost of attendance.

Be prepared for work to be a part of your financial aid package, however. The university reports that first-year students may need to earn $3,700 or $4,450 from their yearlong, college part-time work.

Before dipping into school resources, the university also utilizes governmental programs, including:

Avoid the nightmare costs of your dream school

What if you could get into the school of your dreams without having to pay for it? At the six famous need-blind colleges above, that’s a reality.

No matter which schools you’re considering, however, confirm your eligibility for need-based aid using net price calculators. Try searching online for “[school name] net price calculator,” as all colleges and universities are required by the federal government to host the calculator on their websites. Many top schools also provide quote-like estimates via MyinTuition.

After entering basic personal and financial information, you’ll receive the projected cost of attendance. Then it’s up to you to decide if the accompanying aid package is reasonable enough to enroll.

If you have the fortune of being accepted into multiple schools, whether they’re need-based colleges or not, review how to compare financial aid offers.

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