8 Top Private Colleges With the Lowest Student Graduating Debt
About two-thirds of recent graduates borrowed to help pay for their college education.
About two-thirds of recent graduates borrowed to help pay for their college education. Graduates of private schools walked away with an average of $28,100 in student debt, according to The College Board.
These nine colleges and universities, which include some of the top institutions in the world, provided enough financial aid to get their students across the finish line for half that amount or less; several kept average debt below $6,000.
See our list of the top nine private universities and colleges with the lowest student graduating debt.
1. Princeton University
Location: Princeton, N.J.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,220
Total Annual Cost: $50,269
Average Debt at Graduation: $5,225
Students Who Borrow: 23%
Princeton’s no-loan financial aid policy, introduced a decade ago, means that less than one-fourth of students need to borrow, and the amount they do borrow is small. Princeton’s average debt at graduation, at a little over $5,000, is the lowest among our top 200 private colleges.
2. Berea College
Location: Berea, Ky.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,613
Total Annual Cost: $32,894
Average Debt at Graduation: $5,836
Students Who Borrow: 73%
Plenty of colleges talk about keeping costs, and student debt, down, but Berea walks the walk: This Christian-focused institution covers the full $25,500 tuition for all students, out of a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study, leaving them to cover only $7,394 in remaining costs (including room and board). It’s no surprise that average debt here is second-lowest on our list.
3. Williams College
Location: Williamstown, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,029
Total Annual Cost: $55,360
Average Debt at Graduation: $8,369
Students Who Borrow: 43%
With an average financial-aid package of about $40,000 a year, Williams brings the annual cost of its elite education to a relatively modest $15,360 for students who qualify. Williams admits students without considering their financial circumstances and meets the full demonstrated need of students who enroll.
4. Yale University
Location: New Haven, Conn.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,294
Total Annual Cost: $53,700
Average Debt at Graduation: $9,254
Students Who Borrow: 28%
An Ivy League school with a walloping endowment and a financial-aid budget of $117 million, Yale offers no-loan financial aid to more than half its students, including families earning well over $100,000. Result: Students who borrow carry away one-third less debt than the national average for borrowers at private schools.
5. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,641
Total Annual Cost: $53,652
Average Debt at Graduation: $10,102
Students Who Borrow: 34%
This pre-eminent university awards $166 million in financial aid -- a 70% increase since 2007 -- and shares the wealth among almost two-thirds of the student body. Families with incomes between $60,000 and $150,000 pay up to 10% of their income for their student’s Harvard education; those who earn less than $60,000 pay nothing.
6. Pomona College
Location: Claremont, Cal.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,560
Total Annual Cost: $54,010
Average Debt at Graduation: $10,592
Students Who Borrow: 47%
Kiplinger's top-ranked liberal arts college for best overall value, Pomona offers a no-loan financial aid policy that helps make it affordable for students who qualify for need-based aid. Its strong four-year graduation rate -- one of the highest among our top 200 colleges -- keeps costs under control for every family.
7. California Institute of Technology
Location: Pasadena, Cal.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 967
Total Annual Cost: $50,703
Average Debt at Graduation: $10,760
Students Who Borrow: 43%
This small, elite school in Pasadena keeps debt to a minimum with its generous need-based aid, which reduces the annual cost for students who qualify to less than $20,000, on average. Its sticker price is the third-lowest among our top 25 universities.
8. Wellesley College
Location: Wellesley, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,411
Total Annual Cost: $54,050
Average Debt at Graduation: $12,495
Students Who Borrow: 58%
One of the few women’s colleges among our top 200 list, Wellesley accepts students without considering their financial circumstances and meets the full financial need of those who qualify. All but 5% of its financial aid comes in the form of grants.