Part 3: Middle Class Families CAN Go to College for Free!

Colleges with No-Loan Thresholds

The idea of “schools that don’t give loans” might sound awful at first — one financial aid office we contacted said, “If we don’t give loans, how would students pay for school?” — there are some schools that are generous enough to give completely grant-based aid, which means that, upon graduation, there’s nothing to pay back.

  1. Colgate University — no loans under $125K
  2. Cornell University — no loans under $60K
  3. Dartmouth College — no loans under $105K
  4. Emory University — no loans under $50K
  5. Haverford College — no loans under $60K
  6. Lafayette College — no loans under $50K, lowered loans under $100K
  7. Lehigh University — no loans under $50K (but may change due to COVID-19)
  8. Tufts University — no loans under $60K
  9. Washington University in St. Louis — no loans under $75K
  10. Wellesley College — “for Wellesley students who have the greatest financial need and for whom debt after graduation can be an issue”
  11. Wesleyan College — no loans under $60K, reduced loans under $80K
  12. Williams College — no loans under $75K
  • College U costs $60K and meets 100% of need
  • Your EFC is $20K
  • College U will offer you $40K in aid, using:
  1. Grants/scholarships (free money you don’t have to pay back)
  2. Loans (money you have to pay back)
  3. Work/study (on-campus job at school, usually capped at 10–12 hrs/week and $3K/year
  • Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest until 6–9 months after you graduate; interest rate is low. Here are the maximum allowed amounts of subsidized loans per year:
  1. $3.5K for the first year
  2. $4.5K for the second year
  3. $5.5 for the remaining years
  • Unsubsidized loans start accruing interest immediately when you take them out, but at a low rate.
  • Undergraduate Direct Loans: 2.75%
  • Graduate Direct Loans: 4.30%
  • Graduate and Parent PLUS Loans: 5.30%

Capped Loan Policy — Federal Subsidized Loans only

Some schools have made smaller efforts to prevent their students from becoming too overwhelmed with debt. For example, many schools ONLY use federal subsidized loans to meet need — not unsubsidized loans, or anything else. This means that the amount you have to pay back is capped at the subsidized loan maximum as listed above. A few schools that do this:

  • Boston College
  • Hamilton College
  • Pitzer College

Capped Loan Policy

And finally, some schools have adopted a capped loan policy in which they have committed to not using any more than a specified amount of loans to meet student need. A few examples:

  • Olin College caps loans at $3.5K a year
  • UVA caps loans at $4.5K a year for in-state students and $7K a year for out-of-state students

Reduced Loan Policy

Other schools have taken it further and chosen to reduce the loan amount to even below the federal subsidized loan maximum. One school has adopted this policy:

  • Middlebury College has a limited loan expectation dependent on income, ranging from $7K — $19K over four years
  • Although this is vague, it essentially means that they will try to reduce the loans included in your aid package dependent on your income. Likely, the lower your income, the more they will try to reduce your loans.

Student Contribution Policies

And believe it or not, there are EVEN MORE policies in place unrelated to loans that are meant to help students pay for college. Schools often have a “student contribution” portion of EFC, where they calculate how much students should be earning to contribute to school (often composed of a percentage of assets, summer earnings, and part-time work while in school). Schools have different expectations for this, so make sure to pay attention. For example:

  • Pitzer College uses an increasing summer earnings and work-study model. They expect that you take more responsibility for your educational costs as you progress towards your degree.
  • Davidson College simply states that “You and your family have the primary responsibility for college costs, to the extent of your ability.”
  • Tufts University explains that “Every package will include a student contribution — an amount we expect you to pay from summer earnings, ranging from $1,000–2,600. This expectation remains even if you do not work over the summer.”



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Alyssa the College Expert (Alyssa Bowlby)

Alyssa the College Expert (Alyssa Bowlby)

Executive Director at Yleana Leadership Foundation. Helping kids to get into college since 2006. Professional opera singer for 13 years :)