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, which I boldfaced, that meet at least 94% of need for the majority of its students.

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

What you’ll notice about the above list is that 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 $50,000 school that promises to meet 100% of its students’ financial need.  That means the school will provide $35,000 in aid.

Schools will look for outside help first to build that $35,000 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 Stafford 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.

$50,000 Cost of Attendance

Minus            $15,000 Expected Family Contribution

Aid                 $35,000

After the Stafford Loan is subtracted, the family would get nearly $30,000 in grants/scholarships (free money) to attend this school. Some of the most elite schools won’t put in a Stafford Loan.

In contrast, the majority of schools in this country would “gap” a child. A school might provide $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000 or even $0 dollars to meet this child’s need.

Bottom Line:

If your family will need significant financial aid, it’s important that your child be the best student possible so that he or she will be more likely to qualify for the caliber of schools that are generous.

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50 Responses to List of Colleges That Meet 100% of Financial Need

  1. tony harsh October 4, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    Please put me on your mailing list
    I am an Upward Bound Advisor in MN

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 6, 2016 at 7:28 am #

      Will do Tony!

      Lynn O.

      • Abdoulaye February 14, 2017 at 4:56 am #

        Great listing!!Mailing list please

  2. Paula August 7, 2016 at 5:45 am #

    Not one school in Fla and almost the entire Southern United States, no financial help in Floriduh!

  3. B. Schwartz August 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    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.

  4. B. Schwartz August 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

    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?

  5. Jenny August 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    Have you checked out Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD? The average financial aid package is over $23,000

    • Jenny August 5, 2016 at 10:11 am #

      Correction $26,461

  6. R August 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    Not one Michigan college my niece for her freshman year had Loan in the amount of 7,000 dollars

  7. Susan Schwab August 3, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    I can only hope.

  8. Katherine Williams August 3, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    I’m a 62 year old women that would like to get my bachelor degree, however I have ran out of financial aid money. Would I possibly qualify for 100 percent financial aid help.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy August 6, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      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

  9. Johnetta jefferson August 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    Sounds good i hope it works for my daughter.

  10. Sue Franco August 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    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.

    • Sue Franco August 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

      *EFC- expected family contribution.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy August 2, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

      Hi Sue,

      Schools will not pay 100% of a student’s cost. Schools will require families to pay their Expected Family Contributions.

      Lynn O.

      • David Paris August 7, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

        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.

    • Jenn August 12, 2016 at 11:21 am #

      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!

  11. YVONNE JOHNSO August 2, 2016 at 1:32 am #

    Thank you so much….very informative …

  12. Michelle Connor March 26, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

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

  13. James Hutchinson June 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    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.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy June 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      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.

  14. BLagos April 1, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    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?

    • Jon S July 27, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

      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.

  15. Why March 28, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    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.

  16. Aarambh September 11, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Thank You!

  17. Vijeta March 21, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    thank you Lynn O’Shaughnessy 🙂

  18. Vijeta March 21, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    thank you for this.I am from India.. I m grateful to you Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  19. Ruth Joachim December 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    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.

  20. Parke Muth December 11, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    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.

  21. Susan December 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    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!

  22. Tom Bottorf November 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    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?)

  23. Paul November 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    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.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy November 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      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.

  24. Rana Slosberg October 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm #


    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

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 31, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks Rana for sharing Albright College’s plans. That would be something.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      • Rana Slosberg November 1, 2013 at 2:33 am #

        Another college that pledges to meet 100 percent of need is Franklin & Marshall. They discuss this at their info session and their website says, “The college pledges to meet 100 percent of every student’s institutionally determined need for all four years.”

      • David May 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

        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.

        • Lynn O'Shaughnessy May 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

          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

          • Josh December 5, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

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

        • Dave February 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

          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.

  25. Mary October 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    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.

    • Jim October 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      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.

    • zzzzzz October 31, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

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

    • Marline December 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

      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.

  26. College Counselor October 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Clark University of Worcester, MA should be on the list, as they meet 95% of need.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Thanks for the Clark suggestion.

      Lynn O.

  27. Gail Durso October 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    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.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion Gail.

      Lynn O.


  1. If my EFC is 0 does that mean I can go to college for free? - Do It Yourself College Rankings - February 10, 2017

    […] who have an EFC of 0 should target schools that state they meet 100% of demonstrated need. Unfortunately, these are some of the most competitive schools in the nation. This also means that […]

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