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Posted at 02:56 PM ET, 07/11/2011

The 12 best college financial aid policies

In today’s paper, I write about the trend toward “no-loan” financial aid pledges at some of the nation’s top universities. More than 70 schools have replaced loans with grants in at least some of their aid awards, focusing on the neediest students.

I resisted the temptation, in that story, to rattle off a list of the schools with the best aid policies. So, why not do it here?

There are two great places online to examine each of the dozens of aid pledges in detail — here and here. The following list is based on their research.
Jay Leno at Harvard University, one of higher education’s better deals. (Lisa Poole - AP)

One important caveat: Harvard and Yale have some of the most generous aid policies not because they are more benevolent than other colleges, but because they have the largest endowments in higher education. The pledges cost money.

The top 12:

Amherst College. Amherst replaced loans with grants and work-study for all students in fall 2008. As a result, the share of students at Amherst who are poor enough to qualify for Pell grants has nearly doubled to 23 percent, surely one of the largest totals among top liberal arts schools.

Bowdoin College. Bowdoin, like Amherst, phased out loans for all students in fall 2008.

Claremont McKenna and Pomona colleges. These schools, the crown jewels of the Claremont Colleges system, phased out loans entirely in 2008. These pledges don’t just help poor students. Roger Huddle, a rising senior at Pomona with a household income approaching $100,000, has enough aid to cover about two-thirds of the full price of attendance. ”When they say no loans, they mean no loans,” he said in an interview.

Davidson College. Eliminated loans in all financial aid awards in 2007.

Harvard University. Possibly the most generous aid policy in higher education. Harvard phased out loans in 2008. And, in a unique “zero to 10” standard, the university pledges that families earning up to $180,000 (!) will pay, at most, 10 percent of their income toward college.

Haverford College. Phased out loans in aid awards in 2008.

Princeton University. Princeton was the first school to pare loans from some financial aid awards, in 1998. Since 2001, the policy has applied to all aid recipients.

Swarthmore College. Eliminated loans from aid awards in 2008.

University of Pennsylvania: Eliminated loans from aid packages in 2009.

Vanderbilt University. Eliminated loans from all need-based aid awards in 2009.

Yale University: Yale has retreated from an aid stance that once surpassed Harvard’s in largesse. Today, it meets full demonstrated need without loans, and caps the family contribution at 10 percent of income for families earning up to $130,000.

By  |  02:56 PM ET, 07/11/2011

Categories:  Access, Aid, Finance

 
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