Next on the list is Princeton University. In stark contrast to Berea however, the cost of attending Princeton University is $47,140, and only 18 percent of students take on any kind of debt. This low percentage of borrowers reflects two likely phenomena.
Princeton meets full demonstrated student financial need — meaning that the majority of aid is given through grants and work-study programs — and the university has shown a commitment to minimizing the number of students who have to take on debt in the first place. Given that Princeton has an endowment worth $22.8 billion and only enrolls 8,181 students, they are financially able to follow through on this commitment.
A second likely factor is that Princeton disproportionately accepts students from wealthy backgrounds. Stanford professor Raj Chetty found that the median family income of a Princeton student is $186,100, and 72 percent of students come from families in the top 20 percent of wealth. By accepting fewer students who need assistance, Princeton is equipped to support the small number of students who do.
The only school on the list where students were more likely to take out loans than the average American college student was Thomas Aquinas College. At Thomas Aquinas, 85 percent of students graduate with an average $16,986 in debt. But by capping the amount students borrow and keeping students on track to graduate in four years, Thomas Aquinas is able to limit the amount of debt that graduates hold.
"We don't want to burden students with an unusually large amount of debt after graduation," says Greg Becher, director of financial aid at Thomas Aquinas. "We want them to be productive members in their communities."
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