10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt

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Amid national concern over the amount of debt college students are taking on, these private institutions -- five universities and five liberal arts colleges -- offer enough financial assistance to keep average student debt to a minimum while offering a great education. It is that combination of quality and affordability that puts these institutions among Kiplinger’s top 200 best values in private colleges and universities.
By Jane Bennett Clark
November 2010
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 2 of 11

1. Princeton University

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Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Overall Rank: (among private universities): 1
Total Annual Cost: $49,780
Average Graduating Debt: $4,957
Princeton’s ground-breaking financial aid policy, which replaced loans with grants, contributes to its number-one ranking for overall value and puts it at the top of the list for average debt on graduation. Students at this Ivy League institution walk away with about one-fifth the average debt of students who borrow at all private schools.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 3 of 11

2. Williams College

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Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
Overall Rank: (among liberal-arts colleges): 3
Total Annual Cost: $53,140
Average Graduating Debt: $7,960
This elite liberal arts college meets 100% of its students’ financial need and admits students regardless of their ability to pay. The school offers no-loan financial aid to families who qualify.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 4 of 11

3. Berea College

Parkerdr

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Location: Berea, Kentucky
Overall Rank: (liberal-arts colleges): 82
Total Annual Cost: $31,494
Average Graduating Debt: $8,133
You can’t beat scholarships that cover tuition for keeping student debt down. This Kentucky college covers tuition to all accepted students and extends additional grants to students who qualify for need-based aid. Some students borrow to meet other educational costs.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 5 of 11

4. California Institute of Technology

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Location: Pasadena, California
Overall Rank: (private universities): 3
Total Annual Cost: $49,002
Average Graduating Debt: $8,218
A longtime leader in limiting student debt, Caltech attracts top students from around the country -- almost 100% of its incoming class scored over 700 on the math SAT, and over 71% scored over 700 on the verbal -- and puts them in close contact with faculty, including five Nobel prize winners.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 6 of 11

5. Claremont McKenna College

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Location: Claremont, California
Overall Rank: (liberal-arts colleges): 7
Total Annual Cost: $53,625
Average Graduating Debt: $9,259
One of just five institutions in our top 200 to keep average debt on graduation below $10,000, Claremont McKenna is a member of the Claremont Colleges. Of the seven colleges in the consortium, all five of those that offer an undergraduate degree appear in Kiplinger’s top 50 best values.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 7 of 11

6. Yale University

Michael Marsland/Yale University

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Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Overall Rank: (private universities): 2
Total Annual Cost: $50,080
Average Graduating Debt: $10,717
With one of the most lavish financial aid packages on both our lists and a stellar graduation rate (97% of students graduate on time), Yale delivers its world-class education affordably and efficiently.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 8 of 11

7. Harvard University

Harvard University

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Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Overall Rank: (private universities): 6
Total Annual Cost: $53,227
Average Graduating Debt: $10,871
The most competitive school in the country extends need-based financial aid to families with incomes approaching $200,000. Its average aid package is among the highest on our rankings. A Harvard degree? Priceless.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 9 of 11

8. Scripps College

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Location: Claremont, California
Overall Rank: (liberal-arts colleges): 25
Total Annual Cost: $53,227
Average Graduating Debt: $11,270
This tiny, all-woman’s school has boosted its grant aid by 10% over the 2009-10 year and offers both need-based and merit-based financial aid. It shares its scenic setting at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains with the other Claremont colleges, including Pomona and Claremont McKenna.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 10 of 11

9. Amherst College

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Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Overall Rank: (liberal-arts colleges): 8
Total Annual Cost: $52,522
Average Graduating Debt: $11,347
The average financial aid at this top-notch New England school -- $39,451 -- is the highest in our rankings. That generosity, combined with a no-loan financial aid policy, helps keep debt manageable for students who graduate.
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10 Private Colleges With the Lowest Graduating Debt | Slide 11 of 11

10. Columbia University

Columbia University/Eileen Barroso

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Location: New York, New York
Overall Rank: (private universities): 8
Total Annual Cost: $57,192
Average Graduating Debt: $11,564
Set in one of the world’s most expensive cities, Columbia still delivers its Ivy League education while keeping the average student debt at less than half the national average for graduating seniors.
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