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Colleges requiring the most and least school loans

(MoneyWatch)  If you want to graduate college without a pile of debt hanging over you, consider going to an elite school like Pomona or Williams colleges, or Princeton or Yale universities.

Although the cost of attending these prestigious schools is bumping up against the $60,000 mark, for students who need financial aid they are among the nation's cheapest colleges. The hard part, of course, is getting in.

As I've mentioned many times on this college blog, college sticker prices are meaningless. The only figure that matters is a school's net price. That's the price a family will pay after grants and scholarships are deducted.

In a report released this week by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success, the four elite institutions that I just mentioned were on the list of schools that graduate students with the least debt.

Two others schools that made the list include two so-called working colleges -- College of the Ozarks and Berea College. These working colleges offer an inexpensive education to their students, who are typically low-income, and, in return, the students work on the campuses.

Low-debt colleges

Here are the state and private schools listed by the institute as graduating students with below-average amounts of debt.

  • Augusta State University (Ga.)
  • Berea College (Ky.)
  • California State University-Bakersfield
  • California State University-Sacramento
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania
  • College of St. Elizabeth (N.J.)
  • College of Ozarks (Mo.)
  • CUNY Hunter College (N.Y.)
  • CUNY York College (N.Y.)
  • Dalton State College (Ga.)
  • Elizabeth City State University (N.C.)
  • Ferrum College (Va.)
  • Lane College (Tenn.)
  • Mount Carmel College of Nursing (Ohio)
  • Pomona College (Calif.)
  • Princeton University (N.J.)
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake (Texas)
  • University of Maine at Fort Kent
  • Williams College (Maine)
  • Yale University (Conn.)
High-debt private nonprofit colleges

Many of the private schools where graduates emerge with a lot debt are not particularly well-known institutions.

  • College of Mount St. Joseph (Ohio)
  • Curry College (Maine)
  • Dominican University of California (Calif.)
  • Franklin Pierce University (N.H.)
  • Green Mountain College (Vt.)
  • Johnson C Smith University (N.C.)
  • La Salle University (Pa.)
  • La Sierra University (Calif.)
  • Lawrence Technological University (Mich.)
  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • New England College (N.H.)
  • Nova Southeastern University (Fla.)
  • Robert Morris University (Pa.)
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Ind.)
  • Sacred Heart University (Conn.)
  • Salve Regina University (R.I.)
  • College of Saint Scholastica (Minn.)
  • University of New Haven (Conn.)
  • Wheelock College (Maine)
  • Widener University-main campus (Penn.)

High-debt public colleges and universities 

State schools that might appear cheap can be costly when students can't graduate in four years. The four-year grad rates of some of the schools on this list are quite low.

  • Alabama A&M University (Ala.)
  • Albany State University (Ga.)
  • Bowling Green State University-main campus (Ohio)
  • Delaware State University
  • Ferris State University (Mich.)
  • Indiana University of PA-main campus (Pa.)
  • Kentucky State University
  • Maine Maritime Academy
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Morgan State University (Md.)
  • Pennsylvania State University (multiple campuses)
  • Rowan University (N.J.)
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Temple University (Pa.)
  • College of New Jersey (N.J.)
  • Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of New Hampshire-main campus
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of North Dakota

Bottom line

Because a school's listed price tag is a poor guide of the real attendance costs, it's important to check out what the net price of any institution will be for your family. The best way to do that is to use a school's net price calculator before finalizing a college list.

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