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

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Content was accurate at the time of publication.

A “no-loan” college is exactly what it sounds like: A school that helps students afford their cost of attendance without needing student loans. Financial aid departments accomplish this by connecting students with “gift aid” such as grants, scholarships and work-study programs.

Fortunately, there are many no-loan colleges to consider, though each has unique criteria for receiving a loan-free financial aid package, such as income or residency requirements.

What is a no-loan college?

America’s collective student loan debt stands at $1.75 trillion and is growing, though many colleges and universities are implementing programs to help reduce this number.

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 they will assist you in securing a loan if you decide not to work during the school year or summer. (You might also resort to borrowing if your school’s no-loan package doesn’t cover off-campus living or extra personal expenses.)

Still, the following schools work hard to help you avoid debt while pursuing your higher education.

56 no-loan colleges and universities

Not all loan-free colleges offer the same assistance. Some promise to help all students bypass borrowing, while others focus their efforts on low-income or in-state students.

Narrow your search by exploring the following debt-free college categories:

No-loan colleges for all students

Many prestigious schools offer healthy endowments to help incoming students avoid student debt. Here are 21 colleges with this type of outstanding financial aid package:

  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 16 schools reserve their no-loans policy for their lowest-income students. Each has its own criteria for qualification, but in general, schools typically look at your household income (in relation to the federal poverty line) and assets, which in turn helps determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). They also consider your eligibility for Pell grants or state grants and welfare programs.

Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) gives these schools all of the necessary information, from which they will determine your eligibility for a loan-free aid package.

22. Colgate University: No-loan initiative applies to students with family incomes below $175,000.

23. Connecticut College: If your family’s income falls below a certain threshold, your financial aid package will reduce or eliminate student loans. Contact the school for more details.

24. Cornell University: Families who earn under $60,000 with typical assets for this income range aren’t expected to contribute toward tuition and therefore won’t be offered any loans.

25. Dartmouth College: The Dartmouth Scholarship will cover full tuition if your family income is $125,00 or less with typical assets.

26. Duke University: You can attend loan-free if your family earns under $40,000.

27. Emory University: If you’re an undergraduate student and you qualify for need-based aid, you’ll automatically enter the expanded Emory Advantage program. This program helps students graduate debt-free.

28. Haverford College: Students whose families have incomes below $60,000 won’t have loans offered in their financial aid packages.

29. Lafayette College: Dedicated to lowering or eliminating student loan debt for students with incomes below $150,000.

30. Miami University (Ohio): Miami Access Fellows awards grants and scholarships for students with incomes less than $35,000.

31. Michigan State University: The Spartan Advantage Program will cover your full-time tuition, room and board, books and course materials if your family’s income is at or below the federal poverty level.

32. Rice University: The Rice Investment program offers full tuition, fees and room and board scholarships to undergraduates with incomes of $75,000 or less. Students whose families make between $75,000 and $140,000 can receive a full-tuition scholarship, and those earning between $140,000 and $200,000 are eligible for half-price tuition.

33. Tufts University: Students with family incomes at or below $60,000 typically receive a no-loans financial aid package.

34. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Carolina Covenant is an aid program that helps families at or below 200% of the poverty level. If eligible, the university will help you graduate debt-free.

35. Washington University in St. Louis: No-loans packages are available for families earning $75,000 or less a year.

36. Wellesley College: Wellesley recently expanded its $0-Loan group to include students whose families have a household income under $100,000.

37. Wesleyan University: The no-loan policy is available to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, undocumented students and DACA students with family incomes of $120,000 or less. Typical assets must be $400,000 or below.

No-loan colleges for in-state students

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

If you’d like to stay close to home, check out the no-loans requirements for these 19 schools, rounding out our full list:


38. Arizona State University: The ASU College Attainment Grant Program, President Barack Obama Program and Arizona Promise Program cover tuition and fees for up to four years for Arizona students eligible to receive a Pell Grant.

39. University of Arizona: The Arizona Assurance Grant offers up to $10,000 per academic year for four years. Students must have a family income of $27,000 or less, have an EFC of $0 and be eligible for a Pell Grant.


40. University of California schools: Residents who qualify for financial aid with a family income below $80,000 won’t need to pay system-wide tuition or fees.


41. Fairfield University: The Bridgeport Tuition Grant is offered to high school graduates from Bridgeport, Conn., with a household income below $50,000 and typical assets for this income range.


42. Georgia Institute of Technology: The G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Scholarship helps in-state students with income below $33,300 obtain a debt-free degree from Georgia Tech.


43. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: The Illinois Commitment covers up to four years of tuition and fees for qualified in-state students if their family’s income is $67,100 or less. Family assets must be $50,000 or less.


44. Indiana University: Indiana residents must sign the Scholar Pledge in seventh or eighth grade, graduate with a GPA of 2.5 or higher and meet the income threshold to qualify for the Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) 21st Century Scholarship Program. If accepted, the school will cover 100% of tuition and mandatory fees.


45. University of Louisville: Residents with a household income at or below 150% of the poverty threshold are eligible to apply for the Cardinal Covenant, which helps students graduate debt-free from an undergraduate program.


46. University of Michigan: U-M’s Go Blue Guarantee will pay tuition and mandatory fees for up to four years for residents pursuing their first bachelor’s degree if their family’s income is $65,000 or less, with assets below $50,000. You can still receive some tuition support even if you earn more.

North Carolina

47. Appalachian State University: The Murray Family ACCESS Program helps low-income North Carolina students graduate debt-free. To qualify, you must attend school full time with a household income at or below 100% of the federal poverty threshold, plus an EFC of $0 after filing your FAFSA.


48. Bryan College: Residents with a household income of up to $36,000 pursuing their first bachelor’s degree can apply for the Byron Opportunity Scholarship Program. This renewable award can cover up to the full amount for tuition, fees, and room and board.

49. University of Tennessee: The UT Promise Scholarship covers the remaining cost of tuition and mandatory fees after federal, state and institutional aid. Students need a family income below $60,000 and must qualify for the HOPE Scholarship.


50. Texas State University: The Bobcat Promise allows first-year students the opportunity to attend tuition-free if their family’s income falls below $50,000.

51. Lamar University: The Lamar Promise Program covers in-state tuition and fees (but not room and board) for undergraduate Texas residents if their household income doesn’t exceed $40,000.

52. University of Texas at El Paso: The Paydirt Promise program will pay your full tuition and mandatory fees if your household income is $75,000 or less.

53. University of Texas at Dallas: The Tuition Promise program will cover any remaining tuition expenses after federal, state and institutional funds if your family’s income is $65,000 or less.

54. Texas A&M University: The Aggie Assurance provides full tuition support for students with a family income of $60,000 or less.


55. University of Vermont: The UVM Promise helps low-income students attend tuition-free. To qualify, your family income must be $60,000 or less.


56. College of William and Mary: Starting in the 2023-24 school year, William and Mary will provide scholarship aid to cover tuition and fees for all in-state undergraduates who are Pell Grant eligible.

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 help you access additional aid beyond what your school offers, such as private scholarships and grants from your state.

Contact the financial aid offices of your preferred schools to learn more about how to get money for college without loans. It doesn’t matter whether they offer no-loan financial aid — they’ll still have the latest details about their financial aid program. With this info, you can create a plan to maximize whatever available aid they do offer.

You’re in luck if a handful of no-loan colleges are on your college comparison list. However, you still need to gain admission first before you can reap the benefits of a debt-free education. If you find you need additional help paying for college, make sure to exhaust your federal student loans first, since they come with flexible repayment plans and opportunities for student loan forgiveness.

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