Financial aid from colleges and universities helps make higher education more accessible for millions of people. Nearly 80% of American college students receive some form of financial aid, according to the US Department of Education.

In order to uncover which schools offer the most generous financial aid to students, the Princeton Review asked 140,000 students at 385 US colleges and universities, “If you receive financial aid, how satisfied are you with your financial aid package?” Need-based financial aid typically includes scholarships, grants, and work-study programs, but may also incorporate some student loans.

Based on student responses, the Princeton Review ranked the top-20 schools offering great financial aid as part of its annual best colleges list. Each school’s page also includes information about the average financial aid award and student loans. 

There are a few trends among the 20 ranking schools — most charge annual tuition between $45,000 and $55,000, have a student population far below 10,000, and offer generous need-based financial aid packages. The only two Ivy League schools on the list, Yale University and Princeton University, offer an average financial aid award that exceeds the cost of annual tuition, not including room and board and other fees.

But despite generous financial aid packages, many students — ranging from 16% to 91% of the student population — still take on student loans.

Below, take a look at the best colleges for financial aid, according to students.

20. St. Olaf College

St Olaf college

Annual tuition: $49,710

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $35,236

Share of undergraduates with loans: 64%

Located in Northfield, Minnesota, St. Olaf College has a student population of around 1,760. Despite a generous average financial aid award, 64% of students have taken out student loans, with the average graduate owing $29,907.

19. University of Wisconsin-Madison

university of wisconsin madison

Annual tuition: $9,273 (in-state); $36,333 (out-of-state)

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $12,751

Share of undergraduates with loans: 46%

Over 32,600 students are enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where the annual tuition varies drastically for in-state versus out-of-state residents. Just under half of students (46%) take on loans, at an average of $5,446 per borrower.

18. Skidmore College

skidmore college

Annual tuition: $55,136

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $44,550

Share of undergraduates with loans: 42%

A campus of about 2,600 students located in Saratoga Springs, New York, Skidmore College provides $45 million each year in financial aid. Forty-two percent of students still take on loans though, with the average graduate owing nearly $25,000. 

17. Colgate University

colgate university

Annual tuition: $57,695

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $50,922

Share of undergraduates with loans: 32%

Nearly 3,000 undergraduates attend Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, which awards an average of about $55,000 in financial aid for freshman students. About one-third of students borrow from a loan program, as well. 

16. Lehigh University

Lehigh University Center

Annual tuition: $52,480

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $44,210

Share of undergraduates with loans: 50%

Exactly half of Lehigh University‘s 5,000 students have borrowed from a loan program at an average of $4,000 per student.   

15. California Institute of Technology

Cal Tech Campus California Institute Technology

Annual tuition: $52,506

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $47,564

Share of undergraduates with loans: 31%

Less than 1,000 students are enrolled at the California Institute of Technology, also known as Cal Tech, in Pasadena, California. For freshmen, the average financial aid awarded is $46,749.

14. Stanford University

Stanford University

Annual tuition: $52,857

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $50,542

Share of undergraduates with loans: 19%

Stanford University, a campus of about 7,000 undergraduates, awards an average of more than $50,000 per student with need-based financial aid. Graduates who borrowed money from a loan program owe $21,348, on average.

13. Wabash College

wabash college

Annual tuition: $43,870

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $32,979

Share of undergraduates with loans: 91%

An all-male college in Crawfordsville, Indiana, Wabash College awards nearly $33,000 per student in need-based financial aid, on average. Still, 91% of the school’s 882 students takes on loans, with the average graduate owing $34,723.

12. Williams College

Williams College Thompson Memorial Chapel

Annual tuition: $56,970

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $55,621

Share of undergraduates with loans: 41%

Williams College, a campus of about 2,000 undergraduates in Williamstown, Massachusetts, awards an average financial aid package to freshmen just about equal to annual tuition at $56,933. The average graduate with student-loan debt owes about $15,500.

11. Reed College

reed college

Annual tuition: $58,130

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $39,913

Share of undergraduates with loans: 48%

Reed College, a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon, provides over half of its 1,483 student body with financial aid, including grants, loans, and work opportunities, awarding a total of $39,913, on average.

10. Gettysburg College

gettysburg college

Annual tuition: $56,390

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $37,831

Share of undergraduates with loans: 64%

In the 2017-18 academic year, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania awarded $60.2 million in scholarships and grants. Sixty-four percent of students still borrow money, however, with the average student-loan debt owed at graduation topping $31,600.

9. Vassar College

Vassar College Thompson Library

Annual tuition: $54,410

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $49,190

Share of undergraduates with loans: 49%

Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, is home to 2,456 undergraduates. The average freshman receiving need-based financial aid is awarded nearly $52,000, yet about half of the student body takes on loans.

8. Thomas Aquinas College

thomas aquinas college

Annual tuition: $25,600

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $14,552

Share of undergraduates with loans: 73%

The intimate 400-student Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, awards the average undergraduate need-based financial aid totaling $14,552. More than two-thirds of students borrow money from loan programs, averaging about $4,300 per loan.

7. Grinnell College

Grinnell College Campus John H. T. Main Residence Hall

Annual tuition: $53,872

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $43,783

Share of undergraduates with loans: 60%

Grinnell College in Iowa awards an average of $39,468 per freshman receiving grants and scholarships. Just over 1,700 students are enrolled at the school, about 60% of whom take on loans.

6. Rice University

rice university

Annual tuition: $48,330

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $43,174

Share of undergraduates with loans: 24%

Rice University in Houston, Texas, is home to nearly 4,000 undergraduates, about one-fourth of whom take on student loans. The average graduate who borrowed money owes $24,635 after leaving the school.

5. Yale University

yale university

Annual tuition: $55,500

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $56,602

Share of undergraduates with loans: 16%

The share of Yale University students who borrow money from loan programs is the lowest among the schools on this list — just 16% of its 5,532-student population. Graduates leave the Ivy League school owing about $14,575 in total. 

4. Princeton University

Princeton University Campus Students

Annual tuition: $47,140

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $51,365

Share of undergraduates with loans: 18%

About 60% of Princeton University undergraduates receive financial aid and about 82% of students graduate with no student-loan debt. Notably, the average financial aid package exceeds the cost of tuition at $51,365.

3. Washington University in St. Louis

washington university in st louis

Annual tuition: $54,250

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $47,335

Share of undergraduates with loans: 27%

Students of Washington University in St. Louis who receive need-based financial aid are gifted an average of $48,522 in their freshman year. Of those who took out loans, the average debt amount owed at graduation is $22,555.

2. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University Campus

Annual tuition: $50,800

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $49,614

Share of undergraduates with loans: 21%

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is home to about 6,800 students. The school awarded financial assistance to 65% of students in the 2018-19 academic year, not including loans.

1. Bowdoin College

bowdoin college

Annual tuition: $53,418

Average undergraduate need-based aid: $48,856

Share of undergraduates with loans: 27%

Just over 1,800 students attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, a school that awards an average of $48,856 in need-based aid to first-year students.