Top 10+ Best Colleges For Poor Students In The US
Best Colleges For Low-Income Students In The US
Table of Contents

Many students face significant financial challenges when selecting a college. The thought of paying for each semester or taking out student loans can be daunting—but, while college is expensive, there are numerous funding options available to low-income students.

In this post, look at some excellent college options for low-income students, including programs that provide full scholarships!

♦ Check More: Top 20+ Colleges in the US Where Students Don’t Pay Tuition

Top 10+ Best Colleges For Poor Students In The US Today

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Tuition: $51,832

Acceptance: 7%

SAT Score: 1500-1570

ACT Score: 34-36

QuestBridge Partner Schools include MIT. QuestBridge is a college scholarship program for academically gifted students from low-income families. These students will be able to "match" with one of 40 top universities. Matched students are provided with a full ride for all four years, which includes tuition, transportation, books, and other expenses.

According to the private research university, roughly 60% of all undergraduate students at MIT come from low-income families.

MIT ensures that students from families earning less than $140,000 per year and with typical assets receive scholarships that allow them to attend tuition-free.

READ MORE: Top 25+ Countries Where College Tuition is Free or Low-Cost

2. Vanderbilt University

Location: Nashville, TN

Tuition: $49,816

Acceptance: 10%

SAT Score: 1450-1560

ACT Score: 33-35

Vanderbilt University is a private university in Nashville, Tennessee, with a beautiful campus. It is a highly regarded college, ranked 12th in the United States, with a 10% acceptance rate. It has a medium-sized student body of 7,145 undergraduate students enrolled full-time. Vanderbilt University offers 61 majors in four disciplines.

Applicants should be aware that a high school transcript is required for application and that the SAT or ACT is required for your application to be considered. It also receives approximately $14,355 in research funding per student.

3. Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Tuition: $55,500

Acceptance: 6%

SAT Score: 1460-1570

ACT Score: 33-35

Yale University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, ranking third in the United States overall. According to the top-tier institution, its most generous financial aid package allows undergraduate students to attend for free if their family's annual income is less than $75,000 and they have typical assets. The Ivy League provides need-based aid to some students from families earning more than $200,000 per year.

4. Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Tuition: $50,340

Acceptance: 5%

SAT Score: 1440-1570

ACT Score: 32-35

Princeton University is roughly midway between Philadelphia and New York City. This university provides educational opportunities in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Princeton students live in one of six residential colleges, which serve as both housing and a social outlet. Tuition is free for students whose families earn less than $100,000 per year, as are many other college-related costs, including room and board.

5. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Tuition: $50,420

Acceptance: 5%

SAT Score: 1460-1580

ACT Score: 33-35

Harvard is on the list of colleges that meet 100% of students' needs. Colleges that meet 100% of demonstrated need will pay the difference between the cost of attendance and your family's EFC. You will receive grants (which do not have to be repaid) and loans as part of your financial aid package. You may be expected to contribute to meeting this need through a work-study program in some cases.

6. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance rate: 4%

Tuition: $51,354

Student population: 17,680

Stanford University, often mistaken for an Ivy League institution, reports that nearly half of its undergraduates receive financial aid.

It goes on to say that students from families earning less than $150,000 per year and with assets typical of that income level can attend tuition-free. Tuition and room and board are also free for families earning less than $100,000 per year.

7. Duke University

Location: Durham, NC

Tuition: $55,695

Acceptance: 9%

SAT Score: 1450-1570

ACT Score: 33-35

Duke University offers the best financial aid to low-income families. It is a prestigious private Christian university in Durham, North Carolina, near Raleigh. It is a medium-sized university with a total enrollment of 6,669 undergraduate students. Duke's acceptance rate is only 9%, making admissions extremely competitive. Computer Science, Economics, and Public Policy Analysis are popular majors. Duke graduates 96% of their students and their starting salary is $76,300.

8. Rice University

Location: Houston, TX

Tuition: $47,350

Acceptance: 11%

SAT Score: 1450-1560

ACT Score: 33-35

Rice University, which is ranked #15 in the nation by US News, announced in 2018 that undergraduate students from families earning less than $130,000 per year would pay no tuition. This is part of the Rice Investment financial aid program, which is also intended to help reduce the burden of student debt.

9. Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA

Tuition: $52,780

Acceptance: 8%

SAT Score: 1400-1540

ACT Score: 31-34

Pomona College is a private liberal arts college in Claremont, California, with a beautiful campus. It is a highly regarded college, ranked 13th in the United States, with extremely competitive admissions (8% acceptance rate). It is a small college with 1,499 undergraduate students enrolled full-time. Its most popular major is a Bachelor's degree in Economics, which is pursued by 13% of the student body. Mathematics (12% of students) and computer science ( 10% of students) are two other popular majors. It has a top-tier art program that is ranked fourth in the country.

10. California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, CA

Tuition: $52,362

Acceptance: 7%

SAT Score: 1530-1580

ACT Score: 35-36

Caltech is a prestigious private university in Pasadena, California, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. It is a small university with 961 undergraduate students enrolled.

California Institute of Technology is one of the universities where low-income students earn the most. After graduation, low-income students earn less money than their wealthier peers. In fact, students from low-income households earn $47,400 per year on average 10 years after enrolling in college, compared to $61,968 for students from the highest-income bracket.

Best colleges with cheapest tuition in the US

Top 10 colleges with the cheapest in-state tuition

Yearly tuition (in state)

1. US Merchant Marine Academy


2. Elizabeth City State University


3. University of North Carolina at Pembroke


4. Dalton State College


5. College of Coastal Georgia


6. Middle Georgia State University


7. University of Arkansas System eVersity


8. Western Carolina University


9. Brigham Young University – Idaho


10. The University of Texas Permian Basin


Colleges with the cheapest out-of-state tuition

Yearly tuition (out-of-state)

1. United States Merchant Marine Academy


2. University of Arkansas System eVersity


3. Brigham Young University-Idaho


4. Urshan College


5. Columbia Southern University


6. Brigham Young University-Hawaii


7. Brigham Young University


8. City Vision University


9. Pacific Islands University


10. Manna University


Best Colleges With Generous Financial Aid Programs In The US



Type of School

Amherst College

Amherst, MA

Liberal arts college

Barnard College

New York, NY

Liberal arts college

Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA

Research university

Boston University | BU

Boston, MA

Research university

Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

Liberal arts college

Brown University

Providence, RI

Research university

California Institute of Technology | Caltech

Pasadena, CA

Research university

Carleton College

Northfield, MI

Liberal arts college

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH

Research university

Claremont McKenna College | CMC

Claremont, CA

Liberal arts college

Colby College

Waterville, ME

Liberal arts college

Colgate University

Hamilton, NY

Research university

College of the Holy Cross | Holy Cross

Worcester, MA

Liberal arts college

Colorado College

Colorado, CO

Liberal arts college

Columbia University

New York, NY

Research university

Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

Research university

Davidson College

Davidson, NC

Liberal arts college

Denison University

Granville, OH

Liberal arts college

Duke University

Durham, NC

Research university

Emory University

Atlanta, GA

Research university

Grinnell College

Grinnell, IA

Liberal arts college

Hamilton College

Clinton, NY

Liberal arts college

Haverford College

Haverford, PA

Liberal arts college

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

Research university

Macalester College

Saint Paul, MN

Liberal arts college

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT

Cambridge, MA

Research University

Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

Liberal arts college

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Research university

Oberlin College

Oberlin, OH

Liberal arts college

Pomona College

Claremont, CA

Liberal arts college

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

Research university

Rice University

Houston, TX

Research university

Scripps College

Claremont, CA

Liberal arts college

Smith College

North Hampton, MA

Liberal arts college

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Research university

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

Liberal arts college

Tufts University

Medford, MA

Research university

The University of Chicago

Chicago, IL

Research university

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IL

Research university

University of Pennsylvania | UPenn

Philadelphia, PA

Research university

University of Southern California | USC

Los Angeles, CA

Research university

University of Virginia | UVA

Charlottesville, VA

Research university

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

Research university

Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, NY

Liberal arts college

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA

Liberal arts college

Washington University in St. Louis | WashU

Saint Louis, MO

Research university

Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

Liberal arts college

Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT

Liberal arts college

Williams College

Williamstown, MA

Liberal arts college

Yale University

New Haven, CT

Research university

Wrapping up

It's a good thing that many colleges and universities offer tuition-free programs to students from low-income families. Despite rising tuitions, many of the most prestigious private schools remain affordable to even the poorest Americans.

Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that because of need-blind admissions and generous financial aid programs, the most selective colleges and universities are often the most affordable options for low-income families. However, many low-income families are intimidated by high published tuition rates and choose only schools that appear to be less expensive and less competitive.

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