With college costs steadily rising, simply paying the tab is a serious concern when picking a school.
At public four-year institutions, costs for the 2015–16 school year rose to $19,548 from $16,178 five years ago, according to the College Board. Tuition plus room and board at four-year private universities was much higher: $43,921 on average.
As a result, families are relying on loans, scholarships and grants more than ever before. But as student loan debt hits record levels, stunting the financial independence of many millennials, maximizing aid in the form of scholarships and grants, which does not have to be paid back, is critical.
To that end, ThePrinceton Review ranked colleges by how much financial aid is awarded and how satisfied students are with their packages. The report is based on data collected from fall 2015 through fall 2016.
Surprisingly, the schools that fared the best were all private schools, many of which have sky-high prices, but their very generous aid packages bring the total cost way down.
"Don't base your decision on sticker price alone," said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review's editor-in-chief and author of "Colleges That Pay You Back." When it comes to offering financial aid, private schools typically have more money to spend, he said. "A private school might end up being more affordable than a typical public college in your state."
Here are the schools that made The Princeton Review's top five: