Personal Finance

These are the top public and private colleges with the most generous financial aid packages

Key Points
  • With more students struggling to afford college, some schools are increasing their financial aid offerings.
  • Here are the top public and top private colleges doling out the most free money to offset the cost, according to The Princeton Review.
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The pandemic has put college affordability and student debt in the spotlight.

As the economy continues to recover from Covid, the price of higher education is now the biggest financial consideration among college-age Americans and their parents. At the same time, the cost a four-year college or university has never been higher.

Tuition and fees, alone, reached $10,560, on average, for in-state students at four-year public colleges in the 2020-21 academic year, and $37,650 for students at four-year private institutions, according to the College Board, which tracks trends in college pricing and student aid.

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"The biggest concern for college-bound students and their parents is assuming too much debt and the relative affordability of college," said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review's editor-in-chief.

That is the burden that so many students and their families carry with them, he added.

But too often families only consider the sticker price, Franek said, which doesn't account for need-based and merit aid. To that end, The Princeton Review rated colleges by how much financial aid is awarded and how satisfied students are with their packages. 

"So many schools are doing the near impossible, which is to not make students and their families leverage their financial futures," Franek said.

This year, at private colleges, the average scholarship award — or free money — is just over $35,000. At public schools, the average scholarship award is more than $11,000, which brings the out-of-pocket costs way down.

Two institutions are leading the way. Here are the top public and top private colleges with the most generous financial aid packages.

Top public college for aid: University of Virginia

University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Win McNamee | Getty Images


Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Tuition (in-state): $16,461
Room and board: $12,660
Books and supplies: $3,237
Average need-based scholarship: $25,386
Total out-of-pocket cost: $6,972

Top private college for aid: Yale University

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Tuition:
$59,950
Room and board: $17,800
Books and supplies: $3,700
Average need-based scholarship: $59,150
Total out-of-pocket cost: $22,300

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