Santee Education Complex

Skip to main content
Mobile Menu
****Attention Students, Parents and Teachers, please complete the School Experience Survey!! Log onto******
Staff Login Click here to become a falcon!
College Resources » Free and Low-Cost Colleges!

Free and Low-Cost Colleges!

Note: This page is best viewed with the Firefox browser.

Great news for strong students!  More and more colleges are FREE for students from families with lower incomes.  Students accepted to these colleges receive grants (that's FREE money!) to cover tuition, room, and board!  Please note that many of these colleges are prestigious private institutions and have selective admissions policies.  It can be hard or very hard to get admitted, so you should choose several possible schools to increase your chances.

To research just how selective each school is, look up the college at the College Board’s College MatchmakerSince the colleges are selective, don't rely on these schools as your only college option!  View this as a wonderful opportunity that you can try for, but one that you cannot count on as a sure thing.  You should also look into CSU's, UC's, community colleges, etc.  Also, please note that many of the schools require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.  Not all do, however; visit our AB 540 page to learn more.

Please check each school's website, because types of assistance and qualifying criteria vary somewhat from college to college.  The best way to learn more is to email or call the college's admissions and financial aid offices directly.


No-loan financial aid for families meeting these eligibility requirements:

Amherst College

No max of income

Arizona State University

Arizona residents with family income of up to $60,000 [1]

Bowdoin College

No max of income [2]

Brown University

Family income below $100,000 [3]


Annual income below $60,000 [4]

Claremont McKenna College

No max of income [5]

Colby College

No max of income; all students [6]

Columbia University

All students eligible for financial aid regardless of family income[7]

Cornell University

Annual income below $75,000

Dartmouth College

Annual income below $75,000 [8]

Davidson College

No max of income

Duke University

Annual income below $40,000[9]

Emory University

Annual income below $50,000

Haverford College

First-year students with financial need. [10]

Harvard University

Annual income below $60,000

Lafayette University

Annual income below $50,000[11]

Lehigh University

Annual income below $50,000[12]


Annual income below $75,000[13]

University of Maryland, College Park

Maryland resident with 0 EFC. [14]

Michigan State University

Michigan resident with family incomes at or below the federal poverty line. [15]

Northwestern University

Family income lower than approx. $55,000. [16]

North Carolina State University

Income less than 150% of the poverty line. Requires the family to have "limited assets," regardless of state residency. [17]

University of Chicago

Students who demonstrate financial need and whose annual family income totals $75,000 or less.[18]

UNC Chapel Hill

200% of federal poverty line ($24,000 to $37,000)

University of Pennsylvania

Annual income below $100,000 [19]

Pomona College

No max of income [20]

Princeton University

No max of income

Rice University

Annual income below $80,000

Stanford University

Annual income below $45,000

Swarthmore College

Anyone with financial need [21]

Tufts University

Annual income below $40,000[22]

Vanderbilt University

No cap.[23]

Vassar College

Annual income below $60,000.[24]

University of Virginia

200% of federal poverty line ($24,000 to $37,000)

Washington and Lee University

No max of income

Washington University in St. Louis

Annual Income below $60,000[25]

Wellesley College


Wesleyan University


College of William and Mary

$40,000 (VA residents only)

Williams College

No max of income

Yale University

No max of income

Loan cap Schools

Some universities have opted to have a "loan cap" program, which is a maximum loan — either per year or for the four years combined — designed to reduce the cost of attendance for low-income and middle-class students. The following schools have a loan cap program:


Loan Cap for students meeting these eligibility requirements:

Brown University

Family earning less than about $125,000: Caps total loans to $3,000 per year. Family earning up to $150,000: Caps total loans to $4,000 per year. Family earning up to $150,000: Caps total loans to $5,000 per year.

University of Chicago

"Those whose families make between $60,000 and $75,000 will have 50% of their loans replaced."[18]

Cornell University

Undergraduates with family incomes less than $120,000 will have loans limited to $3,000 per year.

Duke University

Undergraduate students with family income between $40,000 and $100,000 will have their loans limited on a graduated basis ($1,000 to $4,000 per year) and loans "frozen" at the freshman level. [9]

Emory University

"Annual assessed incomes of $50,000 to $100,000 who demonstrate need for financial aid. The program caps total need-based loans at $15,000, assuming on-time progression toward graduation with up to eight semesters of study."[28]

Grinnell College

"Beginning in the 2008-09 academic year, need-based loans for all eligible students will be capped at $2,000 per year."[29]

University of Maryland, College Park

Students with need-based financial aid will have their loans capped at $15,900 for their four years of attendance.[14]

Middlebury College

Family income below $40,000: $1,500 per year; family income $40,000 to $80,000: $2,500 per year; family income above $80,000: $3,500 per year. [30]

Rice University

Students with a family income below $60,000 will not have loans. Families with incomes over $60,000 will have their loans capped at about $14,500.

University of Virginia

200% of federal poverty line ($24,000 to $37,000). Loans are capped at 25% of the in-state cost of attendance, regardless of state residency.



Ø      Bryan College (Tennessee)
William Jennings Bryan Opportunity Program Full tuition and fees First-time full-time student with total family income of $35,000 or less. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA for continued eligibility.

Ø      Carleton College $4,000 scholarship (70% reduction in debt) Students from families earning less than $40,000.

Ø      Grinnell College Caps need-based loans at $2,000 per year, replacing loans with grants. Students with financial need. 2008-2009

Ø      Kenyon College No loans in the financial aid package. 25 students with greatest financial need, eventually more. 2008-2009

Ø      Miami University (Ohio)
Miami Access Initiative Covers full tuition and fees Students with family incomes of $35,000 or less. 2007-2008

Ø      Michigan State University
(Spartan Advantage) Replaces loans with grants and work study. Low income students with family incomes at or below the federal poverty line. 2006-2007

Ø      University of Chicago
Odyssey Scholarships Eliminates loans from the financial aid package. Includes a minimum student contribution of $1,980 and work-study of $2,200 to $3,000. Students with family income less than $60,000. 2008-2009

Ø      University of Maryland, College Park
(Maryland Pathways) Replaces loans with work-study and grants in the financial aid package. Zero EFC students 2007-2008

Ø      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Carolina Covenant Eliminates debt in the financial aid package Students from families with incomes up to 200% of the poverty line. (A 150% threshold was in effect in 2003-2004.) 2003-2004

Ø      University of Pennsylvania Eliminates loans from the financial aid package. Students from families earning less than $50,000. 2006-2007

Ø      University of Washington Full tuition and fees (but not room and board). Students from families earning less than or equal to 65% of the state median income (about 235% of the federal poverty level) who qualify for Pell Grants or State Need Grants. 2007-2008


Other colleges, such as Deep Springs, Webb Institute, Cooper Union, Curtis School of Music, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, College of the Ozarks and Berea College, don't charge any tuition, but they do charge for room and board, so loans are still required, just not as frequently or as much.