Colleges With "No Loans" Financial Aid Policies

Summary: Student loans are often a significant part of a financial aid package. Some schools want to help students leave school without debt, and have introduced “no loans” financial aid policies. This article explores what that really means and where these programs exist.

Worried about what student loans might mean to your future? So are some colleges and universities. In fact, about six dozen colleges and universities have adopted generous “no loans” financial aid policies, where grants replace loans in your financial aid package.

How to Qualify

In many cases, you have to be a low-income student (as defined by the school) to qualify. Here are several examples of how you might qualify:

  • You’re eligible for the Federal Pell Grant
  • Your family’s annual income falls below a particular income threshold (typically $40,000 to $60,000)

Most colleges with “no loans” financial aid policies aren’t truly eliminating all loans. Many of these colleges require a minimum student contribution that could include part-time student employment and student loans (if the expected student contribution is converted into loans).

Instead of a “no loans” policy, some colleges have adopted a low cap on the amount students can borrow. Even so, your average debt at graduation is likely to be much lower than at other schools.

List of "No-Loans" Schools

All of the Ivy League institutions (Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth) have “no loans” policies. Here is a list of other great schools with these policies:

Other Policies

In addition to these schools, there are about a dozen colleges that offer free tuition, including the U.S. military academies. Some of these schools do not allow their students to borrow from federal or private student loan programs.

Some colleges have scaled back the generosity of their no-loans financial aid policies. These schools continue to exclude loans from the financial aid packages of low-income students:

  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Dartmouth College
  • Williams College
  • Yale University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cornell University


  1. File the FAFSA every year to maintain eligibility for student aid.
  2. Check into the schools with “no-loans” policies if you’re trying to minimize your student loan debt.
  3. Before you accept admission to a school, make sure it is a good financial fit, not just a good academic fit.
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