30 four-year schools with high graduation rates and low costs

Students may want to find schools that have a high rate of success among their students—all for a good price. The following 30 four-year institutions have high graduation rates among first-time, full-time students, and low costs for their lowest-income students.

Institution Graduation Rate (150 Percent of Normal Time to Completion) Average Net Price for Low-Income Students
Amherst College 95.2% $3,739
Be’er Yaakov Talmudic Seminary 93.5% $6,989
Bowdoin College 94.3% $6,731
Brown University 94.8% $6,104
Colby College 91.4% $6,443
Columbia University in the City of New York 94.2% $5,497
Dartmouth College 95.3% $7,648
Duke University 94.4% $6,280
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus 80.7% $7,875
Hamilton College 91.8% $7,245
Harvard University 97.2% $3,386
Haverford College 93.3% $5,648
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 92.9% $6,733
Pomona College 95.8% $4,935
Princeton University 96.5% $5,720
Rice University 91.8% $7,960
Stanford University 95.5% $3,895
Texas A & M University-College Station 79.3% $4,528
Trinity College 84.8% $7,874
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 90.3% $7,156
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 89.7% $6,543
University of Pennsylvania 95.8% $6,614
University of Virginia-Main Campus 93.2% $7,007
University of Washington-Seattle Campus 81.3% $6,406
Vanderbilt University 92.4% $7,147
Vassar College 92.2% $5,062
Washington and Lee University 90.1% $7,663
Wesleyan University 91.1% $7,455
Williams College 95.9% $8,202
Yale University 97.0% $7,637

This list includes schools in the top 10 percent of predominantly four-year-degree-granting schools for 1) graduation rates (150% of normal time to completion) for first-time, full-time students and 2) low net price for students receiving federal grants or loans with a family income of $0-$48,000. Net price refers to the net price for in-state students in public institutions. Percentiles were calculated excluding cell sizes less than 30, schools with zero undergraduate degree-seeking students, schools not currently operating, and schools in territories.


  1. front page search function does not work. Does not let you enter programs, location, size etc. Only fields that work are name and specialities.

  2. Very useful information. Will help in college research. Interesting that some seemingly”un-affordable” colleges actually have low net cost for low income students. This site helps to give information on opportunities that are available and it is easy to navigate.
    I guess as time goes on, we can get more data for example add scholarship opportunities and grants availability data by state or college or links to existing websites targeted to the college of interest.
    Great Job. Thank You.

  3. This is a weirdly useless site — it feels like a salvaged project. On this page, for instance, with inexpensive 4-year schools for low-income students, you’ve got some of the best schools in the country. Yes, they hand out some money, but the odds of getting in if you’re poor and (as is likely) not freakishly bright and well-prepped are infinitesimal. In other words, this info is useless for most poor students.

    The comparison pages, likewise, leave out the salient bits. Yes, the expensive schools’ students make more money after college. Could it be because, like you, WH-project person who helped build this site, they come from wealthy and well-connected families? I mean if that’s what’s going on, it’s criminal to suggest to poor parents who don’t know any better that their kids will strike it rich if they go to this wildly expensive school that means nobody in the family will ever get to retire.

    Sorry. Not impressed. So far others do much better.

    • So just because students who come from low income backgrounds have a lower chance in getting in, it’s not important to SHOW students who are coming from these low income backgrounds the kind of financial support they can get if they push for better grades, test scores, etc? Your thinking is so flawed and only thinking of students who are Seniors and really don’t any room for growth in their grades. I hear what you’re saying, but as someone who teachers year-long classes to historically low-income students through the college application process, simply showing them the financial aid support they can get from schools where they previously thought were out of reach simply because of their high price tag, can positively motivate them to do better in school, become more involved in school and even doing more community service.

    • Your comment also doesn’t make sense as the income levels are derived from the tax returns of former students who took out student loans. Those supposedly wealthy students who are driving up the average are most decidedly NOT included in the average income. Think about that. It’s an excellent data point for lower income students because that $$ reflects students who were in their position a few years ago.

  4. It would be most helpful to give the actual cost in the cost column, rather than the average net price for low income students. Financial aid is a long, difficult journey and unless the students get help every step of the way, they drop out of college with few credits and huge debt even at low cost institutions.

  5. Where is the middle class? This is the group that will not be able to afford these schools. The statistics assume that we all qualify for financial aid.

  6. To make this relevant to parents and students, please add a column listing the acceptance rate overall (lots here are at 10% or less), and the percentage of low-income students who actually attend. This whole list seems like paid advertising for schools that are notorious for having very few low income students in their midst. Ashamed of my government.

    • Many schools are on this list are hard to get into, but they do admit a lot of low AND middle income students. We are a middle income family, and Yale is making it work for us – in fact it’s cheaper to go there, even with travel expenses halfway across the country, than to go to the state U. It’s worth noting that some of the private colleges have good values, need-blind admission, and enough money to fund students. There are some others, such as Grinnell College, where the net price will be some higher, but would compete with state schools for both lower and middle income families.

  7. Unfortunately most people do not get low tuition. I think you should reflect a more representative statistic for the majority of the students trying to make decisions. I am quite sure if you used the average net vice the lowest net the results would be very different.

  8. I think a lot of people are going to have a hard time reconciling the “net cost” numbers they see on this site, and the tuition numbers they see on school websites. How do I go to Harvard for $3,386?

  9. HI–crazy data! How many poor students get into these schools? How many average HS grads get into these schools? NOT many!

    You are right. If a student is really bright (to get in), these colleges take care of them. What does that say about College education for the average students in the USA–NOTHING! This information is worthless for the typical USA college bound student.

  10. I’m a senior citizen — just checking what is available today to help students/prospective students learn about college availability. Good effort it seems to me after a quick look.

  11. Please provide more explanation of ‘net price’. Is this per year or total over 4 years (or until graduation)? What does ‘net’ mean: Presumably, it is the amount that the student or family must ‘pay’. But is it the amount beyond student grants including work-study obligations; does it include any tuition contribution from assumed summer earnings?

  12. What is the average net price for those who are not classified as low-income? Seems like this table should include that.

  13. where is the definition of ‘low income’? Is there a way to compare several schools at one time rather than search 1 by 1? Some of the links from college names to the college website don’t work.

  14. Additional Information Needed:

    1. Clear statement of the year for which tuition costs, graduation rates, and salaries are stated.

    2. Provide percent of undergrads majoring in whatever the top 20 areas are for each institution.

  15. Love this site but I’d suggest that your headline above is misleading. You’ve pretty much named the entire Ivy League as “low cost” when you mean that it’s low cost for those with the lowest incomes. That’s a significant asterisk.

  16. What on earth is be’er Yaakov talmudic seminary doing on this list? How are they even eligible for government funding? They teach only ultra- orthodox Jewish men, in the heart of a hasidic enclave. Their primary curriculum is rabbinic.

    Do taxpayers actually have to fund that? Talk about religious coercion….

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