Skip to main content

The Financial-Aid Fine Print

The wealthiest colleges have similar policies. But variation among them can make a real difference in what students will pay.

By Beckie Supiano, Jonah Newman, and Brian O'Leary

Admissions counselors from any of the country’s wealthiest colleges would probably describe their financial aid in similar terms. Something like: “Yes, our price tag is really high, but we meet the full demonstrated needWhen students apply for financial aid, a formula determines what their families can pay for college — in theory. The difference between the full price a college charges and what the formula says the student can pay is the demonstrated need. of all our students. If you get in here, we’ll make it affordable for you.”

That’s basically true. And the wealthiest colleges do have roughly the same financial-aid policies. But they’re not exactly the same.

Colleges work to strike a balance between providing for current students and conserving resources for future ones. And they have some wiggle room, ways they can get a bit more money from students or go an extra mile to support them. On top of that, college officials differ in their philosophies about whether all students should have “skin in the game” when paying for their educations, and how much is appropriate to ask of them.

Let’s take a look at how that plays out at the wealthy colleges, and what it can mean for students. We’ll start with a quick look at relative wealth.

The 25 Richest Colleges by Endowment Dollars Per Undergraduate

$3,829,457
$3,788,847
$3,450,296
$2,633,679
$2,440,127
$1,893,429
$1,231,357
$1,178,539
$1,138,583
$1,077,514
$1,069,020
$1,021,708
$961,528
$921,273
$910,378
$895,738
$882,677
$821,342
$809,856
$772,758
$751,538
$726,210
$717,275
$654,695
$647,185
$52,024

Yale University

Endowment: $20.78-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,426
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.83-Million
% Pell recipients: 13% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,625 from first-year students and $3,050 from returning students each year.

Harvard University

Endowment: $32.33-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,534
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.79-Million
% Pell recipients: 10% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Summer contribution is $1,600 for freshmen; $2,400 for sophomores; $2,600 for juniors/seniors. Those amounts might be reduced for students with very low income or waived for medical reasons. Students outside the U.S. and Canada don’t have a summer earnings contribution.

Princeton University

Endowment: $18.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,275
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.45-Million
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,600 from freshmen and $2,600 from those in other classes. If students are unable to earn that amount, they can get aid to replace it, half from grants and half from loans or work.

Stanford University

Endowment: $18.69-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,096
Endowment per undergraduate: $2.63-Million
% Pell recipients: 16% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Typically expects $2,200 but might ask student to pay more if they earn a lot over the summer or have substantial assets.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Endowment: $11.01-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,510
Endowment per undergraduate: $2.44-Million
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: MIT expects students to meet $6,000 of their financial need with money from sources other than its own scholarships. That could include any combination of Federal Pell Grant, outside scholarships, work, reducing expenses, or loans.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,900 from freshmen, $2,500 from sophomores, $2,800 from juniors, and $3,100 from seniors. This is waived for international students but only rarely in other situations.

California Institute of Technology

Endowment: $1.85-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 977
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.89-Million
% Pell recipients: 11% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Caltech does not package loans for students whose families earn less than $65,000 or who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. For other students, it packages $4,500 in the first year and $5,500 in subsequent years. It packages lower loan amounts for international students, since earnings in their home country might be too low to support that level of debt.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 the first year and $1,900 each year beyond that. If students can’t earn that much in the summer, they are expected to work or borrow to replace that amount during the school year.

Rice University

Endowment: $4.84-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,928
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.23-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Rice does not package loans if a students’ family makes less than $80,00. For students with demonstrated need and a family income higher than that, no more than $10,000 in loans will be packaged to meet need over four years of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,800 from freshmen and $2,450 per year from returning students. If a student’s expected family contribution is $2,000 or lower, the university will reduce this amount; if the expected family contribution is $0, it will be waived.

The University of Chicago

Endowment: $6.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,659
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.18-Million
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international and transfer students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: The university expects about $2,000 from summer earnings. Low-income students receiving Odyssey Scholarships, get a paid internship or research experience during the summer after their first academic year which more than covers this. It can be waived in some instances.

Pomona College

Endowment: $1.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,601
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.14-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,900 from first-year students; an additional $100 is added in each subsequent year.

Columbia University

Endowment: $8.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,608
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.08-Million
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,400 in the first year, $2,990 in the second, $3,200 in the third, and $3,410 in the fourth. The requirement can be waived if, for instance, students are in an experiential-learning program or if they are resident advisers.

Swarthmore College

Endowment: $1.63-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,529
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.07-Million
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,000 from first-year students and $2,500 per year for all others. First-year students whose parent contributions are below $4,000 have their summer contributions reduced to one-half of the parent contributions. For continuing students with parent contributions below $5,000, summer contributions are reduced to one-half of the parent contributions.

Amherst College

Endowment: $1.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,785
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.02-Million
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Amherst generally expects $1,800 from first-year students and $2,100 from returning ones. The figure can be higher if a student has greater income or has substantial assets. It is reduced to $900 for first-year students and $1,200 for returning students with parental contributions below $5,000 before adjusting for the number of family members in college.

Williams College

Endowment: $2.00-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,077
Endowment per undergraduate: $961,528
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose parents make $75,000 a year or less and have typical assets. No aided student is expected to borrow more than $4,000 to meet their demonstrated need each year. Williams uses a sliding scale based on a student’s parent contribution to determine annual loan amounts of up to $4,000.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 in the first year, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case the expected amount is reduced to $1,000. For upperclassmen the amount is $1,950, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case it is reduced to $1,300

Grinnell College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,686
Endowment per undergraduate: $921,273
% Pell recipients: 21% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not have formal loan policy but tries to keep debt levels down.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 from every student, though this can be waived in rare instances.

Duke University

Endowment: $6.04-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,636
Endowment per undergraduate: $910,378
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Meets need without using loans for students with annual family incomes under $40,000. For those whose families earn $40,000 to $55,000, the maximum loan is $2,000 per year; $3,000 max for incomes of $55,000 to $70,000; $4,000 max for incomes of $70,000 to $85,000; and $5,000 max for incomes of $85,000 or more.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,600 in the first year, $2,900 in the second year, and $3,000 in the third and fourth years; waived for students who participate in university-encouraged summer programs.

Northwestern University

Endowment: $7.88-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,801
Endowment per undergraduate: $895,738
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Several university programs help limit debt. One is for area high school graduates, another is for Pell recipients also receiving Northwestern scholarship assistance, and a third for students who would otherwise be on track to borrow more than $24,500 in need-based loans.
Summer earnings expectation: The university normally expects summer earnings contributions of $2,400 for freshmen and sophomores and $2,500 for juniors and seniors, but it reduces or waives this amount for very needy students.

Dartmouth College

Endowment: $3.73-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,230
Endowment per undergraduate: $882,677
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose families earn under $100,000 a year. For those whose families make $100,000 to $150,000, the maximum package is $4,500 per year. For incomes above that level, the maximum is $5,500.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,800 in the first year, $3,000 in the second year, $3,050 in the third year, and $3,100 in the fourth. The contributions are waived the first year for international and undocumented students.

Washington University in St. Louis

Endowment: $5.65-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,881
Endowment per undergraduate: $821,342
% Pell recipients: 6% of students
Need in admissions: Need-aware; might factor students’ financial need into admissions decisions.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose families earn less than $75,000 a year. Maximum of $5,500 of loans per year to meet need for other first-year students.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,550 from freshmen and $2,150 from returning students; may waive on a case-by-case basis.

University of Notre Dame

Endowment: $6.86-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,466
Endowment per undergraduate: $809,856
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans to meet need for students with family incomes below $50,000, although the policy isn’t really advertised. Students who get Provost’s Scholarships (merit within need) may have their loan amounts reduced. For students whose families make $50,000 or more, the university packages loans on a sliding scale, up to a cap.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,100 in the first year and $2,600 in subsequent years. Might be waived case-by-case for low-income students whose income helps support their family or students on a university-encouraged summer program that precludes earning money.

The Cooper Union

Endowment: $0.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 865
Endowment per undergraduate: $772,758
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: No formal policy to limit loans. Cooper Union gives all students half-tuition scholarships. Financial aid is a sliding scale from there.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

Emory University

Endowment: $5.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,739
Endowment per undergraduate: $751,538
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international and transfer students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose annual family incomes are below $50,000. If income is under $100,000, it won’t package a total of more than $15,000 over the course of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 each year, though the requirement might be waived if evidence suggests the student is helping support his or her family..

Washington and Lee University

Endowment: $1.35-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,853
Endowment per undergraduate: $726,210
% Pell recipients: 10% of students
Need in admissions: Need-aware; might factor students’ financial need into admissions decisions.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,400 from everyone, but it might waive that figure for students who appear to be helping to support their families.

University of Pennsylvania

Endowment: $7.74-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 10,793
Endowment per undergraduate: $717,275
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Standard summer-savings expectation for freshmen is $2,500. For those with parental incomes below $60,000 and expected parental contributions below $4,500, the sum is reduced to $1,250. Corresponding figures for returning undergraduates are $2,800 and $1,400.

University of Richmond

Endowment: $2.02-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,091
Endowment per undergraduate: $654,695
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: Need blind, except for international students. May consider need for students admitted from the wait list.
Loan packaging: Self-help policy says students pay $5,000 in the first year, $6,000 the second, and $7,000 in each of the last two. Usually $1,500 comes from work study and the rest from loans.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

Wellesley College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,395
Endowment per undergraduate: $647,185
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose family incomes are $60,000 or less and expected family contributions $7,000 or less. If family income is $100,000 or less and family contribution $28,000 or less, loans are capped at $1,800 for first-year students; the amount rises in subsequent years. Maximum package for first-year students is $3,000. Maximum package to meet need over four years is $15,200.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,950 across the board.

Median private college

Yale tops the list with nearly $4-million per undergraduate student. If you hover overclick its name, you can also see Yale’s endowment, enrollment, and the percentage of students receiving federal Pell Grants, an indication of low income.

Yale University

Endowment: $20.78-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,426
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.83-Million
% Pell recipients: 13% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,625 from first-year students and $3,050 from returning students each year.

The 25th richest institution, Wellesley College, has one-sixth the endowment per undergraduateDividing the money in a college’s coffers by the number of undergraduates it enrolls provides a gauge of the resources the college has per student. of Yale.

Wellesley College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,395
Endowment per undergraduate: $647,185
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose family incomes are $60,000 or less and expected family contributions $7,000 or less. If family income is $100,000 or less and family contribution $28,000 or less, loans are capped at $1,800 for first-year students; the amount rises in subsequent years. Maximum package for first-year students is $3,000. Maximum package to meet need over four years is $15,200.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,950 across the board.

But even Wellesley has more than 12 times the endowment of the typical private college.

In other words, these top colleges have much more money than the rest. One thing colleges can do with all of that money is offer generous financial aid.

And they do. There are relatively few low-incomeHigher ed research typically considers student to be low-income if they receive a federal Pell Grant — student aid that’s based on financial need. It’s not a perfect measure — it doesn’t count low-income international students, for one thing. But it’s generally seen as the best available one. students at most of these colleges — just 6 percent of students at Washington University in St. Louis receive Pell Grants, the most extreme example — but those few get better financial support than most other colleges could afford to provide.

Colleges have many levers to use in supporting students or conserving resources. We’ll look at three: whether financial need is considered in admissions, how loans are packaged, and what students chip in from summer earnings.

Does Ability to Pay Affect Admissions Chances?

All of these colleges will meet students’ financial need — based on the college’s calculationsMost of these colleges use information students report on a form called the CSS Profile — or the college’s own form — to figure out how much their families can pay. Unlike the Fafsa, used for federal aid and by many other colleges, the Profile is designed to be flexible, and colleges won’t all use it the same way. For instance, they can choose whether or not to count home equity as an asset, and under what conditions. — once they are admitted. (One exception: Caltech does not always meet need for all of its international students.)

But does needing financial aid make it harder for a student to get in?

That varies.

Two of these colleges — Washington and Lee and Washington University in St. Louis — are need awareA need-aware or need-sensitve college maintains the option of looking at what applicants can pay before making admissions decisions. Some colleges believe that being need-sensitive while meeting need is better for students than admitting applicants it can’t afford to support well. in admissions. They also have two of the lowest rates of Pell Grant recipients among the 25 listed.

Washington University in St. Louis

Endowment: $5.65-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,881
Endowment per undergraduate: $821,342
% Pell recipients: 6% of students
Need in admissions: Need-aware; might factor students’ financial need into admissions decisions.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose families earn less than $75,000 a year. Maximum of $5,500 of loans per year to meet need for other first-year students.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,550 from freshmen and $2,150 from returning students; may waive on a case-by-case basis.

Washington and Lee University

Endowment: $1.35-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,853
Endowment per undergraduate: $726,210
% Pell recipients: 10% of students
Need in admissions: Need-aware; might factor students’ financial need into admissions decisions.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,400 from everyone, but it might waive that figure for students who appear to be helping to support their families.

Under need-aware admissions (also called need-sensitive), colleges have the option of looking at an applicant’s ability to pay in making admissions decisions.

A college might not use that option, or use it only to shape the tail end of its class. But applicants don’t know for sure whether needing financial aid will hurt their admissions chances.

The other 23 colleges are need blind. That means they don’t look at applicants’ financial need during the admissions process.

Yet only seven of these colleges — including the richest three — are need blind across the board.

Yale University

Endowment: $20.78-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,426
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.83-Million
% Pell recipients: 13% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,625 from first-year students and $3,050 from returning students each year.

Harvard University

Endowment: $32.33-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,534
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.79-Million
% Pell recipients: 10% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Summer contribution is $1,600 for freshmen; $2,400 for sophomores; $2,600 for juniors/seniors. Those amounts might be reduced for students with very low income or waived for medical reasons. Students outside the U.S. and Canada don’t have a summer earnings contribution.

Princeton University

Endowment: $18.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,275
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.45-Million
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,600 from freshmen and $2,600 from those in other classes. If students are unable to earn that amount, they can get aid to replace it, half from grants and half from loans or work.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Endowment: $11.01-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,510
Endowment per undergraduate: $2.44-Million
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: MIT expects students to meet $6,000 of their financial need with money from outside sources. That could include any combination of Federal Pell Grant, outside scholarships, work, reducing expenses, or loans.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,900 from freshmen, $2,500 from sophomores, $2,800 from juniors, and $3,100 from seniors. This is waived for international students but only rarely in other situations.

Amherst College

Endowment: $1.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,785
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.02-Million
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Amherst generally expects $1,800 from first-year students and $2,100 from returning ones. The figure can be higher if a student has greater income or has substantial assets. It is reduced to $900 for first-year students and $1,200 for returning students with parental contributions below $5,000 before adjusting for the number of family members in college.

Dartmouth College

Endowment: $3.73-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,230
Endowment per undergraduate: $882,677
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose families earn under $100,000 a year. For those whose families make $100,000 to $150,000, the maximum package is $4,500 per year. For incomes above that level, the maximum is $5,500.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,800 in the first year, $3,000 in the second year, $3,050 in the third year, and $3,100 in the fourth. The contributions are waived the first year for international and undocumented students.

The Cooper Union

Endowment: $0.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 865
Endowment per undergraduate: $772,758
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: No formal policy to limit loans. Cooper Union gives all students half-tuition scholarships. Financial aid is a sliding scale from there.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

Princeton, for example, doesn’t consider any applicants’ need when making its admissions decisions.

Princeton University

Endowment: $18.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,275
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.42-Million
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,600 from freshmen and $2,600 from those in other classes. If students are unable to earn that amount, they can get aid to replace it, half from grants and half from loans or work.

But at others, the policy has exceptions.

A bunch of them are need aware for their international applicants.

Stanford University

Endowment: $18.69-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,096
Endowment per undergraduate: $2.63-Million
% Pell recipients: 16% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Typically expects $2,200 but might ask student to pay more if they earn a lot over the summer or have substantial assets.

California Institute of Technology

Endowment: $1.85-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 977
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.89-Million
% Pell recipients: 11% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Caltech does not package loans for students whose families earn less than $65,000 or who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. For other students, it packages $4,500 in the first year and $5,500 in subsequent years. It packages lower loan amounts for international students, since earnings in their home country might be too low to support that level of debt.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 the first year and $1,900 each year beyond that. If students can’t earn that much in the summer, they are expected to work or borrow to replace that amount during the school year.

Rice University

Endowment: $4.84-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,928
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.23-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Rice does not package loans if a students’ family makes less than $80,00. For students with demonstrated need and a family income higher than that, no more than $10,000 in loans will be packaged to meet need over four years of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,800 from freshmen and $2,450 per year from returning students. If a student’s expected family contribution is $2,000 or lower, the university will reduce this amount; if the expected family contribution is $0, it will be waived.

Pomona College

Endowment: $1.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,601
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.14-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,900 from first-year students; an additional $100 is added in each subsequent year.

Columbia University

Endowment: $8.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,608
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.08-Million
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,400 in the first year, $2,990 in the second, $3,200 in the third, and $3,410 in the fourth. The requirement can be waived if, for instance, students are in an experiential-learning program or if they are resident advisers.

Swarthmore College

Endowment: $1.63-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,529
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.07-Million
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,000 from first-year students and $2,500 per year for all others. First-year students whose parent contributions are below $4,000 have their summer contributions reduced to one-half of the parent contributions. For continuing students with parent contributions below $5,000, summer contributions are reduced to one-half of the parent contributions.

Williams College

Endowment: $2.00-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,077
Endowment per undergraduate: $961,528
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose parents make $75,000 a year or less and have typical assets. No aided student is expected to borrow more than $4,000 to meet their demonstrated need each year. Williams uses a sliding scale based on a student’s parent contribution to determine annual loan amounts of up to $4,000.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 in the first year, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case the expected amount is reduced to $1,000. For upperclassmen the amount is $1,950, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case it is reduced to $1,300

Grinnell College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,686
Endowment per undergraduate: $921,273
% Pell recipients: 21% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not have formal loan policy but tries to keep debt levels down.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 from every student, though this can be waived in rare instances.

Duke University

Endowment: $6.04-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,636
Endowment per undergraduate: $910,378
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Meets need without using loans for students with annual family incomes under $40,000. For those whose families earn $40,000 to $55,000, the maximum loan is $2,000 per year; $3,000 max for incomes of $55,000 to $70,000; $4,000 max for incomes of $70,000 to $85,000; and $5,000 max for incomes of $85,000 or more.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,600 in the first year, $2,900 in the second year, and $3,000 in the third and fourth years; waived for students who participate in university-encouraged summer programs.

Northwestern University

Endowment: $7.88-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,801
Endowment per undergraduate: $895,738
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Several university programs help limit debt. One is for area high school graduates, another is for Pell recipients also receiving Northwestern scholarship assistance, and a third for students who would otherwise be on track to borrow more than $24,500 in need-based loans.
Summer earnings expectation: The university normally expects summer earnings contributions of $2,400 for freshmen and sophomores and $2,500 for juniors and seniors, but it reduces or waives this amount for very needy students.

University of Notre Dame

Endowment: $6.86-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,466
Endowment per undergraduate: $809,856
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans to meet need for students with family incomes below $50,000, although the policy isn’t really advertised. Students who get Provost’s Scholarships (merit within need) may have their loan amounts reduced. For students whose families make $50,000 or more, the university packages loans on a sliding scale, up to a cap.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,100 in the first year and $2,600 in subsequent years. Might be waived case-by-case for low-income students whose income helps support their family or students on a university-encouraged summer program that precludes earning money.

University of Pennsylvania

Endowment: $7.74-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 10,793
Endowment per undergraduate: $717,275
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Standard summer-savings expectation for freshmen is $2,500. For those with parental incomes below $60,000 and expected parental contributions below $4,500, the sum is reduced to $1,250. Corresponding figures for returning undergraduates are $2,800 and $1,400.

Wellesley College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,395
Endowment per undergraduate: $647,185
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose family incomes are $60,000 or less and expected family contributions $7,000 or less. If family income is $100,000 or less and family contribution $28,000 or less, loans are capped at $1,800 for first-year students; the amount rises in subsequent years. Maximum package for first-year students is $3,000. Maximum package to meet need over four years is $15,200.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,950 across the board.

International applicants are often more expensive to support since they can’t get the federal financial aid that helps colleges fund their domestic students.

Some colleges are need aware in other situations.

The University of Chicago, for example, is need aware for both international and transfer applicants.

The University of Chicago

Endowment: $6.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,659
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.18-Million
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international and transfer students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: The university expects about $2,000 from summer earnings. Low-income students receiving Odyssey Scholarships, get a paid internship or research experience during the summer after their first academic year which more than covers this. It can be waived in some instances. Low-income students receiving Odyssey Scholarships get paid internships or research experience during the summer after their first academic year, which more than covers that amount.

There’s another wrinkle at the University of Richmond.

University of Richmond

Endowment: $2.02-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,091
Endowment per undergraduate: $654,695
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: Need blind, except for international students. May consider need for students admitted from the wait list.
Loan packaging: Self-help policy says students pay $5,000 in the first year, $6,000 the second, and $7,000 in each of the last two. Usually $1,500 comes from work study and the rest from loans.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

It might consider need when it admits students off of its wait list.

So whether financial need might count in admissions depends on both which college a student applies to and what sort of applicant he or she is.

Are Loans Used to Meet Need?

Many of the richest colleges have eliminated or reduced the use of loans to meet students’ financial need. But these “no loan”Having a “no loan” policy doesn’t mean that no students at a particular college graduate with debt — it means the college will meet students’ demonstrated need without using loans. policies vary from one college to the next.

Some of the colleges, like Amherst, always meet students’ financial need without using loans.

Amherst College

Endowment: $1.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,785
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.02-Million
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Amherst generally expects $1,800 from first-year students and $2,100 from returning ones. The figure can be higher if a student has greater income or has substantial assets. It is reduced to $900 for first-year students and $1,200 for returning students with parental contributions below $5,000 before adjusting for the number of family members in college.

But even at a college like that, students might still borrow in order to come up with the amount the college has determined the family can afford to pay.

At other colleges, loans aren’t used to meet need for students below a certain income.

Williams doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose families earn $75,000 or less.

Williams College

Endowment: $2.00-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,077
Endowment per undergraduate: $961,528
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose parents make $75,000 a year or less and have typical assets. No aided student is expected to borrow more than $4,000 to meet their demonstrated need each year. Williams uses a sliding scale based on a student’s parent contribution to determine annual loan amounts of up to $4,000.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 in the first year, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case the expected amount is reduced to $1,000. For upperclassmen the amount is $1,950, unless the parental contribution is under $4,000, in which case it is reduced to $1,300

As family income rises, Williams includes some loans, up to a maximum of $4,000 per year.

These colleges also don’t use loans to meet need for students below a certain income cap, with graduated amountsThe idea is that students are asked to borrow a bit more as family income rises. Dartmouth, for instance, doesn’t use loans to meet need when family income is below $100K. It caps loans at $4,500 per year for students whose parents make up to $150k and at $5,500 per year for students whose families make more. for students from higher-income families.

California Institute of Technology

Endowment: $1.85-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 977
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.89-Million
% Pell recipients: 11% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Caltech does not package loans for students whose families earn less than $65,000 or who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. For other students, it packages $4,500 in the first year and $5,500 in subsequent years. It packages lower loan amounts for international students, since earnings in their home country might be too low to support that level of debt.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,500 the first year and $1,900 each year beyond that. If students can’t earn that much in the summer, they are expected to work or borrow to replace that amount during the school year.

Rice University

Endowment: $4.84-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,928
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.23-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Rice does not package loans if a students’ family makes less than $80,00. For students with demonstrated need and a family income higher than that, no more than $10,000 in loans will be packaged to meet need over four years of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,800 from freshmen and $2,450 per year from returning students. If a student’s expected family contribution is $2,000 or lower, the university will reduce this amount; if the expected family contribution is $0, it will be waived.

Duke University

Endowment: $6.04-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,636
Endowment per undergraduate: $910,378
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Meets need without using loans for students with annual family incomes under $40,000. For those whose families earn $40,000 to $55,000, the maximum loan is $2,000 per year; $3,000 max for incomes of $55,000 to $70,000; $4,000 max for incomes of $70,000 to $85,000; and $5,000 max for incomes of $85,000 or more.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,600 in the first year, $2,900 in the second year, and $3,000 in the third and fourth years; waived for students who participate in university-encouraged summer programs.

Dartmouth College

Endowment: $3.73-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,230
Endowment per undergraduate: $882,677
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not package loans for students whose families earn under $100,000 a year. For those whose families make $100,000 to $150,000, the maximum package is $4,500 per year. For incomes above that level, the maximum is $5,500.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,800 in the first year, $3,000 in the second year, $3,050 in the third year, and $3,100 in the fourth. The contributions are waived the first year for international and undocumented students.

Washington University in St. Louis

Endowment: $5.65-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,881
Endowment per undergraduate: $821,342
% Pell recipients: 6% of students
Need in admissions: Need-aware; might factor students’ financial need into admissions decisions.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose families earn less than $75,000 a year. Maximum of $5,500 of loans per year to meet need for other first-year students.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,550 from freshmen and $2,150 from returning students; may waive on a case-by-case basis.

University of Notre Dame

Endowment: $6.86-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 8,466
Endowment per undergraduate: $809,856
% Pell recipients: 12% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans to meet need for students with family incomes below $50,000, although the policy isn’t really advertised. Students who get Provost’s Scholarships (merit within need) may have their loan amounts reduced. For students whose families make $50,000 or more, the university packages loans on a sliding scale, up to a cap.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,100 in the first year and $2,600 in subsequent years. Might be waived case-by-case for low-income students whose income helps support their family or students on a university-encouraged summer program that precludes earning money.

Emory University

Endowment: $5.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,739
Endowment per undergraduate: $751,538
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international and transfer students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose annual family incomes are below $50,000. If income is under $100,000, it won’t package a total of more than $15,000 over the course of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 each year, though the requirement might be waived if evidence suggests the student is helping support his or her family..

Wellesley College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,395
Endowment per undergraduate: $647,185
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose family incomes are $60,000 or less and expected family contributions $7,000 or less. If family income is $100,000 or less and family contribution $28,000 or less, loans are capped at $1,800 for first-year students; the amount rises in subsequent years. Maximum package for first-year students is $3,000. Maximum package to meet need over four years is $15,200.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,950 across the board.

The details of those programs vary, but they follow the same basic approach.

Five of the colleges don’t have a formal “no loan” or limited-loan policy.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Endowment: $11.01-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 4,510
Endowment per undergraduate: $2.44-Million
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: MIT expects students to meet $6,000 of their financial need with money from outside sources. That could include any combination of Federal Pell Grant, outside scholarships, work, reducing expenses, or loans.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,900 from freshmen, $2,500 from sophomores, $2,800 from juniors, and $3,100 from seniors. This is waived for international students but only rarely in other situations.

Grinnell College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 1,686
Endowment per undergraduate: $921,273
% Pell recipients: 21% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not have formal loan policy but tries to keep debt levels down.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 from every student, though this can be waived in rare instances.

The Cooper Union

Endowment: $0.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 865
Endowment per undergraduate: $772,758
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: No formal policy to limit loans. Cooper Union gives all students half-tuition scholarships. Financial aid is a sliding scale from there.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

Emory University

Endowment: $5.82-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,739
Endowment per undergraduate: $751,538
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international and transfer students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t package loans for students whose annual family incomes are below $50,000. If income is under $100,000, it won’t package a total of more than $15,000 over the course of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,500 each year, though the requirement might be waived if evidence suggests the student is helping support his or her family..

University of Richmond

Endowment: $2.02-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,091
Endowment per undergraduate: $654,695
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: Need blind, except for international students. May consider need for students admitted from the wait list.
Loan packaging: Self-help policy says students pay $5,000 in the first year, $6,000 the second, and $7,000 in each of the last two. Usually $1,500 comes from work study and the rest from loans.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

There are other ways to keep students’ debt level down.

For instance these two come up with a total “self help”Typically colleges use this term to refer to work-study and loans. amount they expect students to fund from work, loans, or in MIT’s case, several other options.

What Do Students Chip In From Summer Earnings?

Most colleges expect students to contribute something from what they earn during the summer.Students might not actually earn this amount during the summer. They could earn it during the year, or borrow and put their loan money toward it. Some colleges will also use an outside scholarship, like Kiwanis, to be put toward this amount.

Just two of these colleges don’t expect any students to come up with this money.

The Cooper Union

Endowment: $0.67-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 865
Endowment per undergraduate: $772,758
% Pell recipients: 18% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: No formal policy to limit loans. Cooper Union gives all students half-tuition scholarships. Financial aid is a sliding scale from there.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

University of Richmond

Endowment: $2.02-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,091
Endowment per undergraduate: $654,695
% Pell recipients: 20% of students
Need in admissions: Need blind, except for international students. May consider need for students admitted from the wait list.
Loan packaging: Self-help policy says students pay $5,000 in the first year, $6,000 the second, and $7,000 in each of the last two. Usually $1,500 comes from work study and the rest from loans.
Summer earnings expectation: No summer-earnings expectation.

A starting premise of financial aid is that paying for a student’s education is primarily the responsibility of the student and family. So even if the family can’t afford to pay, it’s standard for a college to expect something from the student.

But there are exceptions.

Rice, for instance, will waive or reduce its contribution based on students' family income.

Rice University

Endowment: $4.84-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 3,928
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.23-Million
% Pell recipients: 17% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Rice does not package loans if a students’ family makes less than $80,00. For students with demonstrated need and a family income higher than that, no more than $10,000 in loans will be packaged to meet need over four years of college.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,800 from freshmen and $2,450 per year from returning students. If a student’s expected family contribution is $2,000 or lower, the university will reduce this amount; if the expected family contribution is $0, it will be waived.

Several others do the same.

Many others will reduce or waive the contribution in certain circumstances, or on a case-by-case basis.

At Duke, the contribution is waived for students who spend their summers in university-encouraged activities.Like community service, study abroad, or summer classes.

Duke University

Endowment: $6.04-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 6,636
Endowment per undergraduate: $910,378
% Pell recipients: 14% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Meets need without using loans for students with annual family incomes under $40,000. For those whose families earn $40,000 to $55,000, the maximum loan is $2,000 per year; $3,000 max for incomes of $55,000 to $70,000; $4,000 max for incomes of $70,000 to $85,000; and $5,000 max for incomes of $85,000 or more.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,600 in the first year, $2,900 in the second year, and $3,000 in the third and fourth years; waived for students who participate in university-encouraged summer programs.

The actual amount colleges expect from summer earnings varies, too, though it’s usually around a couple thousand dollars a year.

And many of the colleges expect different amounts from different sorts of students.

Some, like Yale, ask for a lower amount from freshmen than from returning students.

Yale University

Endowment: $20.78-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 5,426
Endowment per undergraduate: $3.83-Million
% Pell recipients: 13% of students
Need in admissions: The college does not consider need in admissions for any applicants.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,625 from first-year students and $3,050 from returning students each year.

After all, the summer between high school and college tends to be shorter than summers during college, leaving students with less time to work.

Other colleges, like Columbia, expect students to pitch in a bit more for every year of college.

Columbia University

Endowment: $8.20-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 7,608
Endowment per undergraduate: $1.08-Million
% Pell recipients: 22% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Does not use loans to meet need.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $2,400 in the first year, $2,990 in the second, $3,200 in the third, and $3,410 in the fourth. The requirement can be waived if, for instance, students are in an experiential-learning program or if they are resident advisers.

But that philosophy isn’t universally shared.

Wellesley and a few others expect a flat contribution. One argument for that is that students run out of money from other sources as they progress through college.

Wellesley College

Endowment: $1.55-Billion
Undergraduate FTEs: 2,395
Endowment per undergraduate: $647,185
% Pell recipients: 19% of students
Need in admissions: Need-blind in admissions, except for international students.
Loan packaging: Doesn’t use loans to meet need for students whose family incomes are $60,000 or less and expected family contributions $7,000 or less. If family income is $100,000 or less and family contribution $28,000 or less, loans are capped at $1,800 for first-year students; the amount rises in subsequent years. Maximum package for first-year students is $3,000. Maximum package to meet need over four years is $15,200.
Summer earnings expectation: Expects $1,950 across the board.

As we’ve seen, the way colleges handle summer earnings can make a difference of thousands of dollars to a student over four years of college.

With Wealth, Generosity

The wealthiest colleges use aid to bring their prices down to a level they’ve determined students from every family background can pay.

As we’ve seen, they have a number of tools for striking a balance between supporting their students and conserving their resources. Financial-aid administrators like having choices and discretion.

But for prospective students and their families, all of this can complicate the process of figuring out how financial aid varies from college to college.

Our Own Fine Print

This analysis is based on endowment per full-time equivalent (FTE) undergraduate. Endowment was reported by colleges to the Nacubo-Commonfund Study of Endowments and reflects the value at the end of the 2013 fiscal year. FTE was calculated from fall 2013 enrollment, using the Department of Education's formulas, which can be found here. Percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants reflects 2012-13 figures. (Update, February 25, 11:40 a.m.: These are the percentages reported to the federal government, but the figures for Harvard count non-traditional students who take classes at the university’s extension school. Harvard maintains that the numbers make the university appear less socioeconomically diverse than it is.) Institutions with fewer than 500 FTE undergraduates were excluded from the analysis.

Details on colleges’ financial-aid policies were provided by each college and reflect the most current information available.

Beckie Supiano writes about college affordability, the job market for new graduates, and professional schools, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @becksup, or email her at beckie.supiano@chronicle.com.

Interested in more articles like this one?

×
Newsletter sign-up