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Colleges giving the most financial aid to low-income students

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Colleges giving the most financial aid to low-income students

College remains a goal for many high school students, but paying for that dream education can still be a tough task. The good news is that despite rising costs at many institutions, there are more ways to subsidize an education than ever before, and a host of schools are stepping up in offering aid on their own. Still, for families and students from low-income backgrounds, figuring out how to pay for college can often be an arduous task.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES IPEDS), Stacker used data from 2016–17 to compile a list of colleges giving the most financial aid to low-income students. The list is ranked by the percent price discount for students whose families have under $30,000 of income, which is calculated by net price divided by tuition and fees.

Note: All the figures used in the story refers to specifically identified Group 4 students, which NCES IPEDS defines as full-time students, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who enrolled in Fall 2016 and were awarded any federal student aid, which includes federal grants or federal student loans.

Among the interesting points to observe as you make your way through the slides is that only seven of the 50 schools on the list are public colleges. However, the net price for students from families making under $30,000 in income is still higher for the private colleges than many of the public colleges not included on the list. Also, public college tuition and net price data only pertain to in-state students, and only schools with 500 or more full-time students enrolled were considered. Click through to see if your alma mater made the list.

You may also like: Best colleges ranked by diversity 

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Pâmella Ferrari // Flickr

#50. Franklin and Marshall College

- Tuition and fees: $52,290
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $9,759
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 81.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,225

Named after Benjamin Franklin and John Marshall, this private liberal arts college was founded in 1787. Tuition comes in at under $10,000 for low-income students, which goes especially far when considering that the majority of students are residents. Compared to other private colleges in Pennsylvania, Franklin and Marshall is one of the better deals for families making under $30,000 annually.

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Ron Cogswell // Flickr

#49. Union College

- Tuition and fees: $51,696
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $9,569
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 81.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,132

Located in the middle of the industrial city of Schenectady in upstate New York, Union College is sometimes considered a “Little Ivy” or “Hidden Ivy”—a smaller liberal arts school steeped in quality academics. About eight out of 10 first-time, full-time (FTFT) students receive some sort of financial aid, and 50% of FTFT students take out loans.

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Lauriealosh // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Pitzer College

- Tuition and fees: $50,430
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $9,203
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 81.8%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,029

Pitzer College was where five-time NBA champion coach Gregg Popovich started his career. This selective school is costly—$15,762 for room and board in 2016–17—but the approximately $9,200 cost for low-income students helps. Just over 1,000 students are enrolled full-time at Pitzer, making for an intimate learning community in a scenic Southern California setting.

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Robin Zebrowski // Flickr

#47. Beloit College

- Tuition and fees: $47,060
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $8,404
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 82.1%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,337

James Arness, the protagonist of TV series “Gunsmoke,” studied at Beloit College, a small school in Wisconsin that many might not associate with the Old West. Beloit’s liberal arts focus is a draw for students throughout the Midwest. 23% of the undergraduate student body receives federal Pell grants and other forms of financial aid, cutting almost $40,000 off the tuition price for low-income students.

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Peter Flass // Wikimedia Commons

#46. Skidmore College

- Tuition and fees: $50,834
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $9,063
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 82.2%
- Full time enrollment: 2,643

Known for its horse racing and its proximity to the natural wonders of upstate New York, Saratoga Springs is a bucolic location to attend college. Attending Skidmore, a private college that is a haven for the arts, is not cheap, but with low-income students receiving an average of more than $41,000 toward tuition and fees, this school remains an attractive option.

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Gino Santa Maria // Shutterstock

#45. University of Notre Dame

- Tuition and fees: $49,685
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $8,838
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 82.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 12,187

Notre Dame is more than just football and Touchdown Jesus. As one of the Midwest’s most prestigious colleges, applicants from around the country seek out a Notre Dame education. Hefty financial aid packages ease the burden for students from families making less than $30,000, saving about $5,000 more than if they fell into the $30,001–$48,000 income range.

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Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#44. Wellesley College

- Tuition and fees: $48,802
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $8,204
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 83.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,347

Wellesley is a Seven Sisters college—which pertains to a group of prestigious liberal arts institutions that were traditionally all-female. The school has become more accessible as of late, thanks to more than $40,000 in aid for students from families with less than $30,000 of income. In the past two years, the net price for students in this range has dropped by more than $1,000.

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AdamantlyMike // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Elizabeth City State University

- Tuition and fees: $4,889
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $809
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 83.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,208

A public HBCU (historically black college or university), Elizabeth City State in North Carolina has long offered education at accessible prices. With tuition and fees coming in just under $5,000, Elizabeth City State still doles out large financial aid packages, making the cost of attendance just over $800 for low-income families.

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Benjamin D. Esham // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Hamilton College

- Tuition and fees: $51,240
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $8,434
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 83.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,868

Named after Alexander Hamilton, this Upstate New York college is home to less than 2,000 students, but at $51,000, it has one of the larger tuition costs in the nation. To offset the burden, families making less than $30,000 receive 83.5% discounts—although two years ago, the total cost was even less for similar families, with an average net price of $6,126.

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cheng // Shutterstock

#41. Rice University

- Tuition and fees: $43,918
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,206
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 83.6%
- Full-time enrollment: 6,565

Rice, a private university in Houston, has educated star athletes like Lance Berkman, Koch family scions, and prize-winning authors like Larry McMurtry. The university has traditionally offered a good bargain to low-income students, even though in 2015–16, its net price was $5,398—almost $2,000 more than the most recent cost.

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Jim McIntosh // Flickr

#40. Boston College

- Tuition and fees: $51,296
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $8,391
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 83.6%
- Full-time enrollment: 13,150

Boston is one of America’s great college cities, but its institutions of higher learning often have large price tags. Boston College, which has educated notable American leaders like John Kerry, aims for more inclusivity by cutting almost $43,000 off tuition and fees for families making less than $30,000. However, the cost does seem to fluctuate yearly: Two years ago, the net price for families bringing in less than $30,000 was $11,600, but last year it was $5,549.

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Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Lafayette College

- Tuition and fees: $49,635
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,769
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 84.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,505

World Series champion manager Joe Maddon is just one of many famous alums of Lafayette College, making this eastern Pennsylvania hidden gem a desirable locale for high school students from around the country. Just two years ago, the average cost for a low-income family to send a student to Lafayette averaged $12,156, but that number has now dropped to $7,769.

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Roman Boed // Flickr

#38. Colby College

- Tuition and fees: $50,960
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,901
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 84.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,879

Colby’s packages for families making $30,000 or less have fluctuated over the past few years ($9,438 cost in 2014–15 and $6,481 in 2015–16), but overall this Maine institution remains a solid option for low-income families. According to the most recent data, families making up to $75,000 had a net price of attendance of under $8,000.

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Travel_Adventure // Shutterstock

#37. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

- Tuition and fees: $48,452
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,432
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 84.7%
- Full-time enrollment: 11,183

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most well-known colleges in the world, with a reputation for cultivating some of science’s brightest minds. MIT offers good packages for students from families making less than $30,000, but recent data shows students from families making $30,001–$48,000 receive better packages—for whatever reason, the net price of attendance for that group comes in at $4,727.

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Kristopher Kettner // Shutterstock

#36. University of Pennsylvania

- Tuition and fees: $51,464
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,755
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 84.9%
- Full-time enrollment: 21,358

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) has two U.S. presidents among its alumni. While its Ivy League background may carry an air of being selective and exclusive, Penn provides a discount on full tuition and fees of almost 85% to low-income students. Just as recently as 2015–16, though, the cost was even less, coming in at $4,939.

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OZinOH // Flickr

#35. Wesleyan University

- Tuition and fees: $50,912
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,508
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 85.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 3,069

Lin-Manuel Miranda is just one of many artists who have called Wesleyan home, as this Connecticut liberal arts school has a strong reputation for educating creative types. Net price for students from families earning less than $30,000 has gone up slightly in recent years, but with an over 85% discount of the $50,000-plus in tuition and fees, Wesleyan remains a leader in giving financial aid to students in need.

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McGhiever // Wikimedia Commons

#34. University of Minnesota-Morris

- Tuition and fees: $12,846
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $1,883
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 85.3%
- Full time enrollment: 1,646

A small school in western Minnesota, whose alumni includes popular professional wrestler Erick Rowan, Minnesota-Morris offers their services at a bargain for families searching for a cost-effective education. Its price for families making under $30,000 is less than $2,000, which is almost half of its cost in 2015–16.

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Craig Stanfill // Flickr

#33. Claremont McKenna College

- Tuition and fees: $50,945
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $7,089
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 86.1%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,346

This Southern California institution of higher learning has graduated some titans of American business. With only 1,346 students, admission is selective, but for those that do get in, the $50,945 price tag is not always a barrier to entry thanks to its generous student aid. In recent years, Claremont McKenna has cut almost $3,000 in net price for students from low-income families, whereby more than 86% of the cost is covered.

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Beyond My Ken // Wikimedia Commons

#32. CUNY Brooklyn College

- Tuition and fees: $6,838
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $951
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 86.1%
- Full-time enrollment: 10,795

It’s hard to find a bargain in New York these days, where apartments the size of closets can often cost the same as houses in the suburbs. But the City University of New York (CUNY) system has consistently offered good deals for locals. For families earning less than $30,000, the net price at the Brooklyn CUNY outpost is less than $1,000; with the world’s busiest city as a classroom, that makes for an intriguing deal.

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Dacoslett // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Davidson College

- Tuition and fees: $48,376
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,643
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 86.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,796

Davidson’s most famous alum might be NBA star Stephen Curry. Even though Curry’s father, former NBA player Dell Curry made enough during his career to surely help with tuition costs, Davidson remains accessible for many families from various income brackets. Its net price recently fell almost $2,000, dropping costs to $6,643 for families earning less than $30,000.

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quiggyt4 // Shutterstock

#30. CUNY Hunter College

- Tuition and fees: $6,782
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $871
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 13,697

The second CUNY school on the list, Hunter also offers an education at a net price of under $1,000 for families earning less than $30,000. Hunter was originally a women’s college, counting an array of artists among their ranks; actor Rhea Perlman and author Bel Kaufman are among those to have taken classes inside Hunter’s halls.

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Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Tufts University

- Tuition and fees: $52,430
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,629
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.4%
- Full-time enrollment: 10,545

Tufts, located just outside Boston, puts a particular focus on low-income students. While the net price for families making under $30,000 is $6,629, the next range of $30,001–$48,000 pays around $7,000 more. And at the $48,001–$75,000 level, the net cost goes up to over $20,000.

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Paul Brady Photography // Shuttestock

#28. Northwestern University

- Tuition and fees: $50,855
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,416
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.4%
- Full-time enrollment: 17,475

One of the most prestigious schools in the country, Northwestern receives applicants from around the U.S. and the world. This highly competitive university is becoming more accessible for low-income students: over the past two years of recent data, the net price has dropped from $13,940 to $6,416.

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Гатерас // Wikimedia Commons

#27. CUNY City College

- Tuition and fees: $6,689
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $836
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 10,530

Among the bustle of honking taxis and skyscraping buildings, CUNY’s City College with its Gothic-style buildings is an uptown oasis. Another public college bargain costing less than $1,000 for families earning less than $30,000, City College has drastically made education more affordable for low-income students—cutting almost $2,000 in price in recent years.

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Spiroview Inc // Shutterstock

#26. Swarthmore College

- Tuition and fees: $49,104
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,120
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,542

With a virtual trophy case of Nobel Prizes and MacArthur Genius grants, the highly selective Swarthmore college regularly cuts its net price for families making less than $30,000. But interestingly enough, those in the $30,001–$48,000 range get a better deal—paying $4,422 on average.

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The Fixers // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Barnard College

- Tuition and fees: $50,394
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,225
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 87.6%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,461

Over the past few years, Barnard continually has made education more cost-effective for low-income students. Its net price has dropped almost $3,000 from 2014–15; overall, students from families making less than $75,000 can attend for prices hovering around $8,000. That more-than-87% discount pays off with access to both Barnard and Columbia facilities and classes.

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Sharkshock // Shutterstock

#24. Georgetown University

- Tuition and fees: $50,547
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $6,057
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 88.0%
- Full time enrollment: 14,440

Georgetown, renowned for its law school and presidential alumni, is a jewel of Washington D.C.’s college community. Access to top internships in politics and the judicial system makes it a top choice for many high schoolers looking to enter those fields, and the university does well in attracting students from lower-income backgrounds. Over the past three years of data, Georgetown has kept its net price under $7,000 for students from families earning less than $30,000.

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Nostalgicwisdom // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Pomona College

- Tuition and fees: $49,352
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,832
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 88.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,556

Overall, Pomona College excels in offering financial aid to low-income students. For students from families earning less than $75,000, net price averages no higher than $8,153; students from families earning less than $30,000 receive a more than 88% discount on full tuition and fees.

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Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Bowdoin College

- Tuition and fees: $49,900
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,866
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 88.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,801

Franklin Pierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are among the graduates of Bowdoin’s esteemed history. Current day, Bowdoin has become a leader in New England for offering financial aid to low-income students, dropping its net price in each of the past two years.

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Evan Meyer // Shutterstock

#21. Washington University in St Louis

- Tuition and fees: $49,770
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,716
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 88.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 12,959

Washington University in St. Louis has created some of the most notable financial aid packages for low-income students. The most recent figure of $5,716 is almost $5,000 less than the 2015–16 net price of $10,518 for students from families earning less than $30,000. Most students from families earning less than $75,000 attend with a net price of under $10,000—two years ago, that number was over $17,000.

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Jeffrey Beall // Flickr

#20. Colorado College

- Tuition and fees: $50,892
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,659
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 88.9%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,097

Much smaller than the public Colorado University in Boulder, Colorado College is a small but respected liberal arts school in Colorado Springs. For families making more than $48,000, net price averages at least $20,000 or more, but for more lower-income backgrounds, Colorado College offers packages that reduce tuition and fees to under $6,000. Olympian Peggy Fleming and members of the Cheney family are among their most well-known alumni.

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Colgate University // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Colgate University

- Tuition and fees: $51,955
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,637
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 89.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,865

A town located in upstate New York, Hamilton may not be well known around the country, but its area is a gold mine of small liberal arts schools that offer solid financial aid packages. Like Hamilton College (which is actually in nearby Clinton), Colgate slices tuition costs for families earning less than $30,000. Since 2014–15, the net price has fallen from $13,472 to $5,637.

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Jon Bilous // Shutterstock

#18. Brown University

- Tuition and fees: $51,366
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,335
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 89.6%
- Full-time enrollment: 9,196

Brown is the second Ivy League school to make the list, thanks to the almost 90% discount on tuition and fees to students from families earning less than $30,000. Though with the published tuition and fees at Brown increasing by about $2,000 each year, maintaining or even offering more in financial aid to students in need will be necessary to keep its top 20 ranking.

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Alan Levine // Flickr

#17. Middlebury College

- Tuition and fees: $50,063
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,141
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 89.7%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,506

Compared to 2014–15, Middlebury’s overall tuition and fees have gone up by $4,000. Net price for low-income students has also increased about $2,000 over that period, but the $5,141 cost is still a solid offer. Tucked away in a quaint nook in Vermont, Middlebury has traditionally produced numerous notable names in politics and the arts, including Samuel Nelson (former associate justice of the Supreme Court), John Deere, and actor James Cromwell ("The Green Mile"). Middlebury also has the distinction of being the university where Alexander Twilight graduated, the first known African American man to gain a bachelor's degree from a U.S. college. 

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Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Amherst College

- Tuition and fees: $52,476
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $5,311
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 89.9%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,849

With an American president among their alumni (Calvin Coolidge), Amherst has been a desired private liberal arts college destination for almost 200 years. As the second-most-expensive college on the list so far, Amherst offsets the cost for low-income students with aggressive financial aid packages. However, the net price almost doubles for families in the income bracket making $30,001–$48,000.

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Albert Pego // Shutterstock

#15. Yale University

- Tuition and fees: $49,480
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $4,978
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 89.9%
- Full-time enrollment: 12,345

From C. Montgomery Burns to multiple U.S. presidents, some of America’s most famous fictional and actual personalities have attended the Ivy-decked buildings of Yale in New Haven. Despite rising costs in tuition and fees, Yale has increased its commitment to financial aid for low-income students. While the price of attendance increased almost $4,000 from 2014–15 to 2016–17, the net price for low-income students has dropped more than $1,500.

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Arthur // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Bates College

- Tuition and fees: $50,310
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $4,999
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 90.1%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,780

Bates is the first school to offer a discount of more than 90% to low-income students. Last year was even greater when the net price was $3,497. Robert F. Kennedy is among Bates’ most famous alumni members.

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Jonathan Feinstein // Shutterstock

#13. Vassar College

- Tuition and fees: $53,090
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $4,900
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 90.8%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,405

Despite increases in tuition, Vassar has noticeably dropped its net price for its students from families earning less than $30,000. The 2016–17 cost of $4,900 is almost half of the net price from two years earlier. Another Seven Sisters institution, those who have attended Vassar include Anthony Bourdain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Meryl Streep.

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Jannis Tobias Werner // Shutterstock

#12. University of Chicago

- Tuition and fees: $53,649
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $3,620
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 93.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 13,316

Chicago is a rarity in that the net price for students from families making just above $30,000 is less than those below that figure. The $30,001–$48,000 bracket paid about $2,289 in 2016–17, almost $1,300 less than students from families earning below $30,000. Still, the 93.3% discount is one of the better packages in the nation, particularly in an expensive city like Chicago.

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Jeffrey Zeldman // Flickr

#11. CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College

- Tuition and fees: $6,810
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $407
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 94.0%
- Full-time enrollment: 11,930

Baruch is the fourth CUNY system school on the list. Nestled in lower Manhattan, Baruch costs only $407 for students from families earning less than $30,000. The school is named after American businessman and philanthropist Bernard M. Baruch.

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Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Williams College

- Tuition and fees: $51,790
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $2,780
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 94.6%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,115

Williams traditionally offers hefty financial aid packages. For students from families earning less than $110,000, the net price was $15,615 or lower. Williams’s ranking would have been higher in 2015–16 when the net price for low-income students was only $1,910.

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EQRoy // Shutterstock

#9. Princeton University

- Tuition and fees: $45,320
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $1,948
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 95.7%
- Full-time enrollment: 8,032

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald used to famously write about wealthy elites that attended Princeton. But in reality, Princeton is steadily reducing the net price for low-income students, dropping almost $1,500 in cost from 2014–15 to 2016–17.

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Tdorante10 // Wikimedia Commons

#8. CUNY Lehman College

- Tuition and fees: $6,812
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $253
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 96.3%
- Full-time enrollment: 6,834

The final CUNY entry on the list, Lehman College in the Bronx costs only $253 on average for low-income students. Actor Ron Perlman and local politicians Letitia James and Ruben Diaz Jr. are among those who have thrived in Lehman’s diverse educational setting.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#7. Vanderbilt University

- Tuition and fees: $45,610
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $1,168
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 97.4%
- Full time enrollment: 11,834

Overall, the cost of books and supplies has gone down at Vanderbilt, but the real savings are seen in the university cutting more than $2,000 in the net cost for students from families making less than $30,000 yearly. The $1,168 net price for these students is particularly notable since costs rise to over $6,000 a year in the next income bracket up.

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Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

#6. California Institute of Technology

- Tuition and fees: $47,577
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $874
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 98.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,239

CalTech draws the best innovative thinkers from around the world but has become even more accessible for budding geniuses who normally might not be able to afford its top-flight education. With a net price of $874—less than a new MacBook—students from families earning less than $30,000 are more able to live out their tech dreams. The 2016–17 net price is almost $3,000 less than the previous year’s.

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IMCBerea College // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Berea College

- Tuition and fees: $25,470
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $452
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 98.2%
- Full-time enrollment: 1,616

The smallest school in the top 5, Berea College in Kentucky offers one of the biggest bargains. Dropping in net price almost $2,000 from 2015–16 (and about $4,000 from 2014–15), Berea covers more than 98% of tuition and fees for low-income students.

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Travel Bug // Shutterstock

#4. Washington and Lee University

- Tuition and fees: $48,267
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $496
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 99.0%
- Full-time enrollment: 2,154

Washington and Lee has produced three Supreme Court Justices and is the highest-ranking small school on the list. Over the past three data reports, Washington and Lee has kept the net price for low-income students under $1,000, even as tuition jumped about $2,500 over that same period.

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Dmitrii Sakharov // Shutterstock

#3. Stanford University

- Tuition and fees: $47,940
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): $0
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 100.0%
- Full-time enrollment: 16,080

Stanford is the first university on the list to offer a 100% discount on full tuition and fees to students from families earning less than $30,000. The most recent data from 2016–17 also shows this was the first year Stanford reached the 100% mark, after coming in at around $1,500 net price before. Overall, Stanford’s financial aid packages are among the best for students from families earning under $110,000, with a net price capping out at $11,456.

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Jannis Tobias Werner // Shutterstock

#2. Harvard University

- Tuition and fees: $47,074
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): -$230
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 100.5%
- Full-time enrollment: 20,591

Harvard, continually recognized as one of America’s most prestigious and exclusive colleges, offers financial aid packages to low-income students that not only cost $0 but give back a little in return. The -$230 net price for families earning less than $30,000 is a drastic drop from the $3,294 net price from 2015–16, and the $6,603 cost from 2014–15.

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Chadarat Saibhut // Shutterstock

#1. Duke University

- Tuition and fees: $51,265
- Net price (for students with <$30k family income): -$1,070
- Discount to full tuition and fees: 102.1%
- Full-time enrollment: 14,960

Duke, like Harvard, offers students from families earning less than $30,000 not only the full cost of tuition and fees but money on top of that. At -$1,070, Duke offers a 102.1% discount to low-income students, the best rate in the nation. That is a drastic improvement from the $11,904 net price from just two years ago.

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