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Student Loans Reports

The 150 Small Private Colleges with the Least Average Student Debt Per Borrower

There are numerous steps that high school students all across the United States must take each year to complete the college decision making process. Some students have had their “dream schools” in mind since they were young children, others don’t have a clue in the world.

For those who are entering the process with an open mind, uninfluenced by family legacy or perceived destiny, there are numerous questions that must be answered.

Do I want to stay close to home or explore somewhere new? What schools offer the major that I want to pursue? Big school or little school? What can I afford?

These are just a few questions that may go through curious students’ minds when trying to narrow down the thousands of college options. However, there is one more question to consider that may help arrive at an answer faster.

Public or Private?

Private colleges and universities are characteristically smaller than public ones in both enrollment and campus size. In addition, these schools tend to offer a more particular set of degrees and majors.

Another distinguishing aspect of private universities is that they are perceived to be much more exclusive than public schools. This stigma is due in part to the reputation of the Ivy League schools, which consistently maintain some of the lowest acceptance rates of all higher learning institutions in the world.

According to Education Corner, Harvard and Yale have acceptance rates of 6.0 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. By comparing these to some very elite public colleges, such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia, who have acceptance rates of 26.0 percent and 28.9 percent, respectively, it becomes apparent why this exclusivity stigma exists.

The biggest difference between public and private colleges, however, is found in how they are funded. Public universities are funded mostly by the government which allows students seeking higher education to receive it at lower, more attainable costs.

Private institutions, on the other hand, rely heavily on tuition to fund their operations. For this reason, most of the financial burden falls on enrolled students. In order to cope with the higher costs, many students of private colleges need to take on a significant amount of student loan debt.

A recent LendEDU study found that many Millennials are putting future life plans on hold because of their student debt. For example, the study showed that 75 percent of millennials delayed buying a house and 43 percent delayed starting a family because of their student loan debt. These statistics simply display the importance of finding a school that is not only suitable, but affordable.

LendEDU has compiled a list of 150 Small Private Colleges that burden students with the lowest amounts of student debt at graduation. We have ranked these schools from least to greatest based on the average student loan debt per borrower.

150 Small Private Colleges with the Least Average Student Debt Per Borrower


LendEDU’s Small Private Colleges with the Least Average Debt Per Borrower Report was created using licensed data from Peterson’s that reflects the Class of 2016. For reference, the data is released on a one-year delay. The Class of 2017 data will not be available until the Fall of 2018.

The average debt per graduate was calculated by compiling the total debt at each university, divided by the number of bachelor degree recipients at each particular university. The average amount of student loan debt per graduate was then weighted by the number of graduates who had student debt to find the average debt per student loan borrower.

The data was provided on a voluntary basis at the college level by college officials. LendEDU did not audit the accuracy of the college level data.

In order to analyze only small private institutions, the universities and colleges included in the study were limited to those which have Private Nonprofit and Private Religious identifications. Next, we filtered the private colleges based the number of graduates (only those with 800 or less were included) to ensure that only those who could reasonably be considered “small” were included. We then ranked the eligible colleges in order from least to greatest based on the average student loan debt per borrower.

See more of LendEDU’s Research