About two-thirds of recent graduates borrowed to help pay for their college educations. Those earning degrees from private schools walked away with an average of $28,100 in student debt, according to The College Board. The plight of these heavily indebted graduates in a dismal job market -- in which the few positions available seem increasingly unlikely to make good use of what they gained from all that higher education -- is causing some people to question the value of going to college.
But the following 10 colleges and universities, which include some of the top institutions in the world, provided enough financial aid to get their students across the finish line for half the average amount or less; several kept average debt below $6,000.
Check out the top five private universities and colleges with the lowest student graduating debt below, and head over to Kiplinger to see the rest.
The 10 Private Colleges Where Student Debt Is Lowest
Location: Princeton, N.J.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,220
Total Annual Cost: $50,269
Average Debt at Graduation: $5,225
Students Who Borrow: 23%
Princeton’s no-loan financial aid policy, introduced a decade ago, means that less than one-fourth of students need to borrow, and the amount they do borrow is small. Princeton’s average debt at graduation, at a little over $5,000, is the lowest among our top 200 private colleges.
Location: Berea, Ky.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,613
Total Annual Cost: $32,894
Average Debt at Graduation: $5,836
Students Who Borrow: 73%
Plenty of colleges talk about keeping costs, and student debt, down, but Berea walks the walk: This Christian-focused institution covers the full $25,500 tuition for all students, out of a mix of grants and scholarships, leaving them to cover only $7,394 in remaining costs (including room and board). It’s no surprise that average debt here is second-lowest on our list.
Location: Williamstown, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,029
Total Annual Cost: $55,360
Average Debt at Graduation: $8,369
Students Who Borrow: 43%
With an average financial-aid package of about $40,000 a year, Williams brings the annual cost of its elite education to a relatively modest $15,360 for students who qualify. Williams admits students without considering their financial circumstances and meets the full demonstrated need of students who enroll.
Location: New Haven, Conn.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,294
Total Annual Cost: $53,700
Average Debt at Graduation: $9,254
Students Who Borrow: 28%
An Ivy League school with a walloping endowment and a financial-aid budget of $117 million, Yale offers no-loan financial aid to more than half its students, including families earning well over $100,000. Result: Students who borrow carry away one-third less debt than the national average for borrowers at private schools.
Location: Claremont, Cal.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 956
Total Annual Cost: $55,700
Average Debt at Graduation: $9,435
Students Who Borrow: 36%
This tiny, all-women’s school awards generous need-based and merit-based grants as well as privately funded need-based loans, which do not accrue interest while the student is in school. (Students also have access to federally sponsored loans, such as Staffords.) Scripps is one of the three members of the Claremont Colleges (a consortium of five colleges and two graduate programs that share faculty and facilities) to make our top ten for low debt.