List of Colleges That Meet 100% of Financial Need


If your family will need to depend on financial aid to attend college, your best bet is to find a school that will offer an excellent financial aid package to your child.

A great way to assess the generosity of any school is to look at the percentage of financial need it typically meets for its students.

Teenagers, who earn acceptances into schools that meets 100% of need, essentially win the educational equivalent of the lottery.


 Colleges and Universities That Meet 100% of Need

To make the search easier, here are the schools that I know of that meet 100% of financial need for all or most of its students. If you are aware of others, please let me know.

Also on the list I included schools that meet at least 93% of need for the majority of its students.

  1. Amherst College (MA)
  2. Austin College (TX) 95%
  3. Babson College (MA) 98%
  4. Barnard College (NY)
  5. Bates College (ME)
  6. Beloit College (WI) 95%
  7. Bentley University (MA) 94%
  8. Boston College (MA)
  9. Boston University (MA) 93%
  10. Brandeis University (MA) 95%
  11. Brown University (RI)
  12. Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  13. Bowdoin College (ME
  14. California Institute of Technology
  15. Carleton College (MN)
  16. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  17. Clark University (MA) 93%
  18. Colby College (ME)
  19. Colgate University (NY)
  20. College of the Holy Cross (MA)
  21. College of Wooster (OH) 95%
  22. Colorado College (CO)
  23. Columbia University (NY)
  24. Connecticut College (CT)
  25. Cornell University (NY)
  26. Davidson College (NC)
  27. Dickinson College (PA) 99%
  28. Duke University (NC)
  29. Dartmouth College (NH)
  30. Emory University (GA)
  31. Franklin and Marshall College (PA)
  32. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
  33. Georgetown University (DC)
  34. Grinnell College (IA)
  35. Hamilton College (NY)
  36. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  37. Haverford College (PA)
  38. Harvard University (MA)
  39. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  40. Kalamazoo College (MI) 94%
  41. Kenyon College (OH)
  42. Lafayette College (PA)
  43. Lawrence University (WI) 97%
  44. Lehigh University (PA) 95%
  45. Macalester College (MN)
  46. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  47. Middlebury College (VT)
  48. Mount Holyoke College (MA)
  49. Northwestern University (IL)
  50. Oberlin College (OH)
  51. Occidental College (CA)
  52. Pitzer College (CA)
  53. Pomona College (CA)
  54. Princeton University (NJ)
  55. Reed College (OR)
  56. Rhodes College (TN) 93%
  57. Rice University (TX)
  58. Saint John’s College (NM) 93%
  59. Saint Olaf College (MN) 99%
  60. Scripps College (CA)
  61. Smith College (MA)
  62. Soka University of America (CA)
  63. Stanford University (CA)
  64. Swarthmore College (PA)
  65. Syracuse University (NY) 96%
  66. Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
  67. Trinity College (CT)
  68. Trinity University (TX) 98%
  69. Tufts University (MA)
  70. Tulane University (LA) 96%
  71. Union College (NY)
  72. University of Chicago (IL)
  73. University of Notre Dame (IN)
  74. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  75. University of Richmond (VA)
  76. University of Rochester (NY) 97%
  77. University of Southern California
  78. University of Virginia
  79. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  80. Vassar College (NY)
  81. Wabash College (IN) 93%
  82. Wake Forest University (NC)
  83. Washington and Lee University (VA)
  84. Washington University, St. Louis, (MO)
  85. Wellesley College (MA)
  86. Wesleyan University (CT)
  87. Whitman College (WA) 96%
  88. Williams College (MA)
  89. Yale University (CT)

What you’ll notice about the above list is that many of the schools are highly selective. Many of these schools can provide 100% of need because they are wealthier with bigger endowments than their peers, but also because the majority of students who attend these schools are typically high income.

With the wealthy children paying the sticker price or getting a modest merit scholarship, this generates more money for financial aid.

How Percentage of Need Met Works…

Let’s say the financial aid formula says your family can afford to pay $15,000 for one year of college. (That’s represented by your Expected Family Contribution.) Your child is lucky and gets into a $60,000 school that promises to meet 100% of its students’ financial need.  That means the school will provide $45,000 in aid.

Schools will look for outside help first to build that $45,000 package. If the child qualifies for the federal Pell Grant for low-income students and an applicable state grant, that will be put into the package first. Nearly all schools also put in a federal Direct Loan, which for freshman is $5,500. After that the school would kick in its own institutional money.

In this case, let’s assume the child doesn’t qualify for any state of federal grants at a school that meets 100% of need.

$60,000 Cost of Attendance

Minus            $15,000 Expected Family Contribution

Aid                 $45,000

After the Direct Loan is subtracted, the family would get nearly $40,000 in grants/scholarships (free money) to attend this school. Some of the most elite schools won’t put in a Direct Loan.

In contrast, the majority of schools in this country would “gap” a child. A school might provide $10,000 or $15,000 or $30,000 or even $0 dollars to meet this child’s need.

The Cynical Side of Meeting Need

It’s important to understand that the institutions self report these figures. A school’s generosity will depend heavily on the institutional financial aid formula that it uses.

Nearly all the schools on this list use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is a financial aid application created by the College Board.

In addition to the standard questions on the PROFILE, the application allows colleges to pick from hundreds of optional questions that are designed to measure the financial ability of families to pay for college.

For instance, Boston College says it meets 100% of a student’s financial need, but its aid formula calculates the full value of a family’s home equity. (Not a good thing!)

Many schools haven’t adopted such a harsh stance against home equity. Boston College also takes a much closer look at other aspects of a family’s finances than some of the other schools.

Consequently, even schools that are similarly priced could offer significantly different packages. For example, the average need-based aid package for Boston College students is $35,519. Compare that to Amherst College’s average aid package of $51,513.

Not Everyone Gets 100% of Need Met

Ideally, a student will get accepted into a school that meets 100% of need for 100% of students, who are eligible for financial aid. You can only count on this happening, however, at the most elite schools that enjoy the best college rankings.

There are schools on this list where far fewer students get their full financial need met. At Brandeis University, for instance, 75% of students had their full need met while students at Bentley University and  had just 41% of their full need met. Some schools have even lower figures.

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    1. Post

      It hasn’t been updated but just about all the schools that said they meet 100% of need should still do so.
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  1. Assuming you’ve never heard of Berea College in Berea, KY. Most selective school in the state, and no tuition promise. NO STUDENT PAYS TUITION. And it’s for low income families. Check it.

  2. Thank you for providing this information and formulas to better understand the process. While my student won’t graduate until 2019 this is great info to use for planning appropriately. Keep sharing and thank you again.,

  3. Thank you for explaining 100% need with concrete examples. The university scholarships my daughter received certainly helped with tuition along with the prepaid college plan I paid into when she was born. While the annual $52,000 in tuition was covered (balance of $16) through the above mentioned avenues, families need to understand that EFC will likely include room/board/health insurance/activity fees, etc. Work study is an option to help defray costs and external scholarships (no matter how small) are helpful especially if you do not qualify for federal aid. Bottom line, you will be seeking financial aid around every corner to ensure you and your child are not consumed with debt upon graduation if you are considered middle class.

  4. With all due respect to Lynn, who is truly one of the real experts on the financial aid application process, the notion that a college meets 100% of the demonstrated need of all admitted candidates is a myth generated by institutional marketing efforts. As long as enrollment professionals (financial aid and admission officers) engage in differential need analysis and preferential packaging, they get to determine the manner in which the “game” is called. The amounts of “need,” or expected family contribution as determined by the institution, frequently don’t match the FAFSA assessment—the only definitive definition of expected contribution families get to see as they enter the process. Moreover, the composition of financial aid awards from institutions that claim to meet full need can vary in content from full grant/scholarship to full loan across all financial aid awards. A student receiving admission from 10 different colleges is likely to receive markedly different financial aid awards from each—and all will claim to meet 100% of demonstrated need.

    The bottom line: students who need/want assistance should be targeting institutions that will value them for what they have to offer. Those institutions will admit them and use institutional resources to leverage their enrollment.

    1. Post

      HI Peter,

      I added some more information about this topic that will be helpful to parents. You are certainly right that schools define need met differently. Schools that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE can tweak this financial aid formula in different ways.

      It’s critical that parents use a net price calculator before letting their teenagers apply to any school! Here is an article I wrote for Cappex on this topic:

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. Hi Lynn. I’m working with a student who is in foster care and has been for a number of years. The Net Price Calculators are really not user friendly for foster youth as they force you to put in parental information if under the age of 24. Do you have any recommendations on how to use net price calculators for foster youth?

        1. Post

          Hi Irene,

          Foster children are considered independent students. They are not dependent even with foster parents.

          Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. Starting with the class that enters in Fall of 2017, Case Western Reserve University meets 100% of financial need.

    1. Post

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for letting me know. Will this be for 100% of your freshmen with demonstrated need?

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  6. It is important to note that YOU do not determine need. The FAFSA does. If the FAFSA says you can contribute $40,000 a year, the college will provide the difference between the tuition, room and board and the 40 grand you are expected to cough up.

  7. How accurate is the net price calculator? We have not filed our FAFSA yet so we do not know what the EFC will be. However, some of the schools in this list state we will only have to pay a few thousand after completing the NPC. Is this accurate?

    1. Post

      Hi Pam,

      The schools that use the net price calculator that relies on the federal template will not be accurate. These calculators ask very few questions and don’t even inquire about assets!

      Please read the lesson on net price calculators to learn more about them.

      Private, selective colleges and universities that use outside calculators are often pretty darn accurate – at least from feedback I’ve heard over the years. That is a good question to ask college admission offices is how accurate are their calculators.

      To learn what your federal EFC is, just use the EFC calculator on the College Board website. There is no reason to have to wait to find out what it is. You can also obtain the generic institutional EFC tied to the PROFILE by using the College Board’s EFC calculator too. You will learn more about EFC by reading the lessons in the module entitled, Your Families First Step.

      Lynn O.

  8. My son is a rising sophomore at Penn State. He’s a martial artist and is studying electrical engineering. He’s an average student. Tuition rates are far too high and we don’t qualify for Pell and related grants. What loan-free monies are available to help meet his out-of-state financial obligation?

    Thank you for taking time to advise me! It is deeply appreciated!

  9. Be careful in understanding “need.” FAFSA ETC is only one measure. Most of the listed schools use CSS profile, which adds home equity, savings, and not the age of parent into formula. Also, adds in Perkins loans and work study. COA ($66k – $17k of “need” – $10k in loans/work-study = famiky contribution of $46k. That’s meeting “All” our need!

  10. Furthermore, basically, any school must find some way to meet the need. Once you pay your EFC, the difference between that, any aid the student receives, and the cost to attend the college is up to the university to figure out how to make up. Whether they offer you the option to work it off, or just offer you an in house scholarship, whatever, it’s up to them to figure it out. Once you’ve met your EFC, the burden is off of you. However, realistically speaking, until there are regional economic considerations made in the FAFSA process, many people in certain parts of the country will never qualify for much of anything because all that is looked at is the income, not the direct correlation to the cost of living for where one lives.

  11. Too good to be true. I have a friend whose child was accepted into one of the “more selective” colleges on your list. During the “looking at colleges” phase, all they heard was how much money the college had in endowments and all about scholarships they give, etc. After this child was accepted, my friends went to the financial aid office and said “ok, let’s talk.” The response of the this “prestigious institute of higher education” that talked all about their endowments? “If you can’t afford to send your child here, then why did you even bother to let your child apply?

    1. Hi Katherine,

      These schools are appropriate for young students. These would not be appropriate for you. You should seek to see what you would be entitled to in regards to federal financial aid (Pell Grant, SEOG, federal loans), state aid and any institution help. Your best bet would probably be your nearby state university. I would avoid for profit schools! You may also want to look at a school like Western Governor’s University, which you can do from your own home and was created by governors in states in the West.

      Good luck.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  12. Please be aware though that what you will be expected to pay is that number that is your EFA. Many parents reading this article will assume that 100% means the school will pay ALL of the bill. While in many cases it is a significant reduction, the EFA is often a significant number for a typical family.

      1. In some cases, a school will pay the entire amount if the family has an income under $50,000 – $60,000.
        Additionally, if the family has more than one student attending college, then that is also factored in to their benefit.

    1. Yes, I have a Freshmen and a junior in the Cal State University’s in CA. The grant money available was remarkable. I did not have to pay the EFA for either child. One is even living on campus and got her dorms covered too. Research to what is available to your students is a HUGE factor. Take the time and educate yourself, don’t expect the school to do it for you!

  13. Really great article and information. We are working on putting twins through college and it is daunting to say the least

  14. A great deal of this depends on whether the school uses the CSS or FAFSFA to determine expected family contribution. I currently have one child at Kenyon College and one entering Dickinson College. Our financial packages include student loans about 5k per year but no parent loans. What I suggest is use the Net Price calculators they have been accurate for us. Also consider at least a few schools on this list and do not rule schools out because of high price. In our situation Kenyon was approx 60,000 per yr we also looked at Penn State approx 34,500 per/yr Penn State only offered us a student loan of about 5K leaving approx 30k per/year. Kenyon offered 5k student loan 36,000 kenyon aid leaving us about 18,900. This upcoming year with 2 in school Kenyons aid will increase our contribution will be approx 19,500 with each child incurring the 5k student loan. My point, look around a little.

    1. Hi James,

      This is a great example of how price tags are meaningless! There are plenty of times when an expensive private school will costs less than a state school. It’s also smart to use net price calculators. People need to be careful because about half of them are bad.

      Lynn O.

  15. So what about parents who have large sums saved up in retirement accounts, but have little in other assets or income? Are we forced to loose our retirement funds to pay for our kids’ education? I would prefer to see a list of schools who offer no scholarships (i.e. each student pays for what he/she uses) and where parents are not forced to pay for other people’s children by paying inflated school tuition that is then redistributed by the school to “poor” students (children of people who did not plan ahead).. Can I see a list of those schools?

    1. Neither the FAFSA or CSS real take into account what you have in retirement, but they do look at what you put into retirement during the measurement year and treat that as income.

    2. BLagos Obviously those people with large retirement funds but little educational savings weren’t planning ahead either, in my opinion. Planning ahead for education is just as important as planing ahead for retirement. But if the parents don’t want to pay for their child’s education directly, they can certainly have the child take out student loans, or work study, and the parents can choose to NOT take out a Parent loan. I know that I am not planning to take out a parent loan for my child, she can pay for her own college, after any grants are possibly used.

  16. I am finding that most if not all ‘full need’ schools use the CSS, which is less generous than the fafsa and more discretionary. And the efc produced by fafsa is already usually pretty staggering. So the term full need becomes very misleading and disappointing. It is very important that parents have this information early.

  17. Great points about the nuances involved in “meeting 100% need”, the variations in how Profile colleges calculate EFC, and the paucity of options for good but not stellar students. The colleges I’ve found to be most generous for strong but not superior students are the Catholic, Lutheran, etc. colleges. For kids who aren’t Christian, this can be a non-starter.

  18. The University of Virginia still meets 100% of demonstrated need. They do require students to take out loans but so do many of these schools. They had to cut back on no loans for the neediest of students this year but they still meet all need.

  19. The list of colleges above might be generous to those with demonstrated need, which is great. But as an earlier commenter stated, not so good for the student who has no demonstrated financial need, but the family is unable to write a 50K+ check for 4 years. My daughter, a high achiever academically, applied and was accepted to 2 of the above colleges. One offered a meager merit scholarship and the other offered zero. Per your advice in earlier posts, we looked for colleges that gave higher amounts of merit money as demonstrated on their Common Data Set (a vastly underused resource), but were not the name brands school listed in this article. She ended up at Luther College (IA) and has been very happy!

    Would love to see more articles that focus not on these name brand elites, but on the many colleges that are gems out there who really are able to help with merit money! College search #2 is just getting underway in this house!

    Stil grateful I found your posts during the last college search — we are doing this loan free because you showed the way!

  20. What most parents fail to realize is the complexity in the EFC calculation. While the EFC derived from the FAFSA is universal in nature, if a student applies to 10 Profile schools, there’s a high likelihood that they will each receive a unique EFC due to the service options posed by the schools to the College Board. (Surprised?)

  21. Just because a college provides 100% of financial need, it doesn’t mean that it is a good financial aid package. My older child was accepted to one of the schools that provide 100% need, but their calculation of expected family contribution was astonishingly high. It would have required me to scale back to a bare bones budget, including cutting way back on retirement contributions. Maybe it was because my child was not at the top of the student profile.

    My second child is interested in another school on this list. According to their financial aid estimator, they would provide a generous amount of financial aid. My older child has since graduated, so in each instance, there would be no consideration of having multiple children in school at the same time.

    1. You are right Paul. The schools on this list are going to have their own institutional formula that will vary by institution. That’s why it’s smart to use net price calculators.

      Lynn O.

  22. Lynn,

    When I visited Albright College (PA), they indicated that starting in the Fall of 2013, they would meet 100% of demonstrated financial need. You can read about it on Albright’s website ( or on my blog.

    In the Fall of 2012, Albright accepted 47% of their applicants. I expect that is a higher percent of students accepted than most, if not all of the 79 colleges listed above. I would anticipate that Albright’s announcement is likely to increase their applicant pool and lower their acceptance rate in the future.

    Rana Slosberg
    Slosberg College Solutions LLC

      1. Just an FYI………just ran the npc for Albright. We are a low efc family, student in top 10% of class…….the coa for Abright is $61,220.00, our net price was $40,125.00. Albright claims to meet 100% of need, but the calculator for us was loaded with loans…..satfford – unsubsidized $2000.00, stafford subsidized – $3500.00, Perkins $2000.00, and Parent Plus loan $30,625.00. I would not classify this college as meeting need.

        1. Hi David,

          This is an excellent example of a school that is generating misinformation by claiming that it meets 100% of demonstrated need for all its students. Schools are not supposed to include loans — except the subsidized Stafford — when calculating what need it meets. You need to beware of schools that are generating bogus financial aid statistics!

          Lynn O’Shaughnessy

          1. Is there some national standard or policy that says what schools can or can’t include in that claim?

        2. I have a daughter in her sophomore year at Albright (loves it!) – the COA for a full-time student including everything including books, dorm, meal plan, etc, is under $50k – I think it was about $48k this year (2014-2015) up from $46k last year so not sure where the $61k referenced above comes from? Albright absolutely met 100% of the demonstrated need and none of it (zero) was in the form of parent loans – a huge majority of it (about 85%) was grant/scholarship, the rest was Perkins/Stafford and $1-2k/year from work/study.

  23. I’d love to see you do a piece at some point that focuses on how middle to upper middle class families (and especially those without a “hook”) with average to slightly above average students can best pay for college without taking out significant loans. This is a difficult cohort to be a part of in terms of paying for college, and it is arguably the largest group of students applying to college. My kids are good students but not top 10% and our income puts us in the upper middle class — we are expected to pay our own way (or will be “gapped” as you say, so will receive a small scholarship that doesn’t really make a dent), but really can’t afford to pay the $60K that many privates cost these days (or even the $45K it will cost after they offer a very small, token scholarship). Meanwhile, the very poorest will often get full scholarships. The beauty contest college guides largely ignore this middle group (just like the government does!), even though it represents the vast majority of students who will go to college. Those who can gain admittance to and afford the types of schools you mention in this article are probably fewer than 5% of the college going population. What are the rest of us — the vast middle ground — supposed to do without going into major debt? Since my kids fall into this vast middle ground, I have found only two options to be financially palatable, because my husband and I refuse to go into debt. Today’s job market is just too volatile to be gambling on our kids being able to make enough money when they get out to pay down debt. We do not take out loans to finance education, and we use a combination of savings (both our own and our kids’) and pay as you go (including money from kids’ summer jobs). The two college scenarios that have worked for us, given what I’ve just told you, are: 1). State/publicly supported universities to which my kids gain admission but are offered little or no money, but the sticker prices are very reasonable or 2). Private liberal arts colleges that aren’t in the top tier (such as Clark University, Emory & Henry, Goucher College, Washington College, Roanoke, etc.) and who were eager to get my kids because they were in the top 10% or so of applicants to those particular schools. And even these level of privates still often haven’t offered enough to make them affordable — their reduced sticker price still can’t compete with public school prices most of the time. Outside of those two options, there has really been nothing very affordable (as in debt-free) for our kids. Even if my kids could have gotten into Harvard, but we were asked to pay more than $30K towards it (which I suspect we would have been, being upper middle class), it would not be worth it. Return on investment (ROI) is the most important thing to be weighed when you are debt-averse like my family is, and it’s hard to beat public universities in this regard, especially in my state of Virginia, where they are fantastic at all levels. This vast middle ground of people — strong but not top students and middle and upper middle class — are those I suspect are feeding the student loan debt crisis in this country. The only way I see to avoid loans, is to largely steer towards public universities or go to non-top tier private colleges who give very generous (cover at least 50% of cost of attendance) aid packages.

    1. Mary you are hitting on the major problem I have as well. But it’s more complex than that even when looking at some of the STEM fields. In some fields the quality of college drops quickly so you get into the trying to calculate the ROI on a better, but more expense college vs an affordable, but inadequate college, even in the public university side. Things such as the 6 year graduation rate drop precipitously between my daughter’s number 1 & 2 out of state choices to her #3 in state. Her ACT scores and class rank would put her at the top 5% of the student body in the #3 school, but only top 20% of the #1/2 schools. #3 is affordable, but looking at academics, available courses, etc, is a much lower quality choice.

      1. This is exactly our scenario. Son chose #3 school for best ROI, but is frustrated and disappointed he will have very few peers who have comparable HS achievement. Big compromise.

    2. Mary, a couple of options you didn’t mention are Junior colleges/community colleges, and commuter colleges that facilitate kids living at home.

    3. Well said. My family is also an upper middle class and we refuse to take on loans to finance out children’s college education. Although they belong to top 10 % of their HS class, I believe our only options to avoid debt is State Universities & lower tier private colleges that offers full scholarships to students who meet merit eligibility requirements.

  24. Lynn, I believe Wake Forest University is an omission on your list. According to Collegedata and College Board they either meet 99% or 100% of your demonstrated need. Personally, we have seen fantastic packages come from them. They have been very generous to our students.