These 10 Colleges Are Working To Eliminate Student Loans From the Equation: How It Succeeds in Keeping Students Out of Debt

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With federal student loan forgiveness initiatives continuing to be works in progress, a number of U.S. universities and colleges are striving to ease the financial burden on students and families by partially or entirely getting rid of loans from their financial aid packages.

Per The Connecticut Mirror, Wesleyan University — the top liberal arts college in Connecticut, according to Niche — is one of the latest to eliminate federal loans, joining Yale and Connecticut College in the state, and dozens of schools throughout the country, in an attempt to make post-secondary education more affordable.

“Having already eliminated loans for highly aided students, this should help middle-income families eligible for financial aid find Wesleyan more affordable,” said the university’s president, Michael S. Roth. “We are improving the University’s financial aid offerings to be able to build and maintain a dynamically diverse community, including socioeconomic diversity.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, tuition and fees at private national universities have risen about 40%; at out-of-state public national universities, approximately 38%; and in-state, around 56%, when adjusted for inflation over the past 20 years. When not adjusted for inflation, these increases are 132%, 127% and 158%, respectively, per 2024 Best Colleges information.

For the 2023-2024 academic year at Wesleyan, first-year students will pay an average of $89,094 on tuition, housing and food, books, supplies, personal expenses and fees. Returning students pay almost as much: $88,794.

“From free computers to enhanced health insurance coverage, Wesleyan is making its education more accessible,” Roth added. “We have also committed to increasing the percentage of the University’s overall budget dedicated to financial aid.”

By employing a combination of strategies and maintaining a strong commitment to reducing student debt, no-loan schools strive to support students in achieving their academic and career goals without the burden of excessive loans.

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Some schools offer a no-loans financial aid package to all applicants regardless of their financial need and require no minimum contribution from the student. Others include stipulations that make their no-loan policy available only to certain demographics (or those with certain qualifications), or require a small contribution.

Some schools set no-loan policies years ago, but the movement has gained momentum ever since the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s efforts to provide debt relief and support for millions of student loan borrowers. No-loan schools, or “loan-free” or “debt-free” schools, aim to alleviate the burden of student debt and help students graduate with minimal or no loan obligations.

Here are 10 “no-loan” schools from across the eligibility spectrum, starting with the three Connecticut schools mentioned above. To see a list of 56 U.S. colleges or universities that are providing partial or complete removal of student loans from their financial aid packages, consult this LendingTree analysis.

1. 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, starting in the fall of 2024. Typical assets must be $400,000 or below.

2. Yale University

From the Yale site: “Yale meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students regardless of citizenship or immigration status. This includes undocumented students living in the US, with or without DACA status. Yale does not expect students to take out loans. Instead, Yale financial aid awards includes a Yale Scholarship, a parent contribution, and a small student contribution.”

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3. Connecticut College

Your financial aid package will have reduced or completely eliminated student loans if your family’s income falls below a certain threshold. Contact the school for more details on its financial aid policy.

4. 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,” states Lending Tree.

5. Amherst College

According to the Amherst College Financial Aid FAQ, while the school expects you to apply for federal and state scholarships and grants for use at Amherst if eligible, “Amherst financial aid offers usually include scholarship and a work opportunity. The first $1,800 of need is met with a work opportunity, and since 2007, there are no packaged student loans. Any remaining need is met with scholarships — aid that doesn’t have to be repaid.”

6. Princeton University

The prestigious New Jersey university instituted a no-loans policy in 2001 and last year, announced a plan to raise its no-loan income cap from $65,000 to $100,000 and eliminate the required $3,500 student contribution. This policy came into effect at the start of the 2023-2024 school year, per U.S. News & World Report.

7. Columbia University

According to its site, Columbia awards over $200 million in scholarships and grants and offers some of the most generous financial aid of any college in the United States. “Financial aid packages consist of work study, as well as grants, which are need-based scholarships that do not have to be paid back. There are no loans included in your financial aid package, and you can graduate debt-free.”

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8. Arizona State University

Tuition and fees for up to four years for Arizona students eligible to receive a Pell Grant are covered by ASU’s College Attainment Grant Program, President Barack Obama Program and Arizona Promise Program.

9. Duke University

Students can attend loan-free if their family earns under $40,000, according to LendingTree.

10. Colgate University

Colgate strives make education “affordable to as many talented, high-achieving students as possible, regardless of their socioeconomic background,” per its financial aid website. The New York institution offers no-loans financial aid packages to students whose family income is $175,000 or less, and students with an annual family income of $80,000 or less can attend the school tuition-free. Students whose families have an average income above $80,000 are required to make a contribution, depending on their income bracket.

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