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Debt-free degrees: Paying for college on a sliding scale

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Ivy League largess

Strange but true: Academically gifted but economically average students can now attend an Ivy League university—Brown University (pictured), Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale or the University of Pennsylvania—for free. These elite and extremely selective schools may rank near the top of the tuition tally, but, thanks to enormous if creaky endowment funds and government pressure to tap them, they can actually be among the best bargains and even cheaper than a top public university. All you have to do is make the grade.

At Brown University, families with income below $60,000 and assets under $100,000 pay nothing. For those with income below $100,000, the traditional loan component of financial-aid packages is replaced with extra scholarships. Families with total income under $150,000 get reduced loans. Only those earning more than $150,000 get a standard financial-aid package of loans, student employment and some scholarship money.

Image source: Frank Mullin | Brown University