LAC's with merit - is there a list somewhere?

We got great merit at Denison, Wooster, Susquehanna and Ursinus. I’ve also heard good things about Puget Sound, Knox, Center, Beloit, Kalamazoo, Furman, St Lawrence.

Merit got net costs down to $30-35k… but for lower than that we had to go to the auto merit schools (Alabama, Miami OH, Arizona) and competitive merit at South Carolina.

Alabama has the residential Blount Liberal Arts Program, which gave my eldest a LAC vibe and approach with all the add ons of a big flagship (business school, sorority, football, gazillions of opportunities and wide range of people)


I think to see - who offers full vs. just merit - or how many - you probably have to dig at each college.

You can probably start at US News after #20 - and there may be more that are need only. But #9 W&L, for example, awards 10% of the class the Johnson Scholarship - so there’s probably some excepts.

But as you get into the 30s and 40s and below, most (not all) will likely offer merit. Just google the school and merit - and it will take you to the scholarship page where you can then get more info.

2021 Best National Liberal Arts Colleges | US News Rankings

Good luck.

Trinity College and Connecticut College are the only NESCAC LACs that offer merit aid.

You all have given me some good starting points, thank you.

It seems like there should be some kind of resource for this. I may create one. :grinning:

Actually what I will probably do is create a spreadsheet, but with some glaring holes based on my D’s interests.


We were given a list of colleges that give merit (as reported by families) by our high school guidance counselor. We focused on Midwestern LACs, and our daughter got merit aid from all of those she applied to: Grinnell, Kenyon, Macalester, Oberlin, St Olaf and Knox. We checked individual colleges’ websites for the general information to see if merit is available or not. I’m not aware of a comprehensive list.

Trinity University in San Antonio also offers good merit to high stats applicants. When our S19 was looking at colleges, at first I wasn’t even aware of merit scholarships (we live overseas and I was really out of touch with the whole US admissions process). I first read about merit money on here and then ran some NPCs for schools he was interested in. In many cases, the possibility of merit money will show up there. There is also a classic CC thread on the topic here: Looking for advice in Merit aid for a top 1% student

I posted the following a few years ago in a similar thread (couldn’t figure out how to reference the thread, so just had to cut and paste - looks like the link didn’t paste too well - search for “Kiplinger’s best 300 value colleges”. Looks like Kiplinger now has its data behind a paywall but for a while it was an extremely useful almost comprehensive list that provided both percentage of students receiving non-need based aid and average amounts of that non need based aid for hundreds of institutions. Taking those two data points together allows one to identify almost all institutions offering reasonable chances of substantial merit.

Btw, I second Trinity as offering good merit aid, based on first hand experience - notice my avatar :grinning:


I have found this list from Kiplinger very helpful in assessing merit aid possibilities. It is sortable. Focus on both the column showing percentage of students receiving non-need-based aid and the column showing average amount of that aid.


1 Like

Allegheny in Western Pa is aggressive as is Hendrix in Conway Ark. They have a program where they match the tuition of your state flagship.

1 Like

Here are some links that might be of use:

Hendrix College (Conway, AR) – Scholarships | Hendrix College
Paying for Hendrix: Financial Aid & Scholarships | Hendrix College

Knox College (Galesburg, IL) –

Centre College (Danville, KY) –

Clark University (Worcester, MA) –

St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY) –

Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC) –

Agnes Scott College (Atlanta, GA) –

Rollins College (Winter Park, FL) –

Trinity University (San Antonio, TX) –

Southwestern University (Georgetown, TX) –

Carthage College (Kenosha, WI) –



Search for BigJEducational Consulting - the two principals put together a list and post for all to see on their website under resources. Not just LACs, but a comprehensive list of schools and average merit amounts.


Here’s something similar:


The CTCL schools are a great place to start for a strong but not superstar student. I also recollect (although this is now dated) that there was a parents of 2017 grads thread for students in the 3.0-3.4 range that listed many LACs that offered merit from 20K/year to full tuition.

Off the top of my head, here are some schools that I looked at for my two kids, both of whom ended up at LACs:

Ohio Wesleyan
College of Wooster
St. Lawrence
St Olaf
Puget Sound
Lewis & Clark
Clark (Worcester, MA)

If you child is open to women’s colleges: Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Scripps, Wesleyan College (GA) and Agnes Scott offer substantial merit. The last two are less competitive for admissions and merit than the first four.

Good luck!

1 Like

Here is a three or four year old list I compiled from Kiplinger’s data I referred to above that I was able to dig up from an old spreadsheet (sorry the link I provided above no longer links to useful date). The below list provides some (but not all) institutions that grant non-need based aid of between about $15k-$25k to between 50-100% of a colleges students. It should at least provide a good checklist of institutions to look at.

I think some of these have already been mentioned. To the OP, note that many of these are NOT LACs. The list is ordered, starting with institutions providing non-need based aid to 100% of students and concludes with institutions providing such aid to 50% of students.

St. John’s College
Birmingham-Southern College
University of Dallas
Wabash College
Denison University
Ohio Wesleyan University
Hanover College
Austin College
Cornell College
Southwestern University
Illinois Wesleyan University
Principia College
Hillsdale College
Millsaps College
DePauw University
Centre College
St. John’s College
Hendrix College
Butler University
Rhodes College
Lawrence University
Knox College
Trinity University
University of Portland
Kalamazoo College
Augustana College
Agnes Scott College
St. Lawrence University
Lake Forest College
College of Saint Benedict
Mercer University
Gonzaga University
Whitworth University
Beloit College
Willamette University
Houghton College
Baylor University
Xavier University
Saint John’s University
Oberlin College
Luther College
John Carroll University
College of Wooster
Seattle Pacific University
Furman University
Clarkson University
Wheaton College
Creighton University
Centenary College of Louisiana
Saint Louis University
Drew University
Lewis & Clark College
Drake University
Wofford College
University of Tulsa
University of Denver
St. Olaf College
Case Western Reserve University
Tulane University
Rollins College
Grinnell College
Southern Methodist University


This is a pretty elite list of meets needs schools and helpful info if you’re student is looking for a competitive SLAC with generous financial aid but no merit.

1 Like

This won’t answer the comprehensive list need. I keep thinking I’m sure there’s a reason it’s not made already since so many people would want it?

But have you been looking at the common data sets for each school. Almost all have published CDS (Dennison is an SLAC exception) for years going back with tons of information including middle range of GPA’s and test scores and if you scroll to section H2 and H2A, it will tell you the number of students who receive need-based and non-need based aid (merit) and the average award for each student. Look at the numbers both for first year and institution-wide to see if there’s a trend of students “losing” the merit awards. Here’s the link to the most recent CDS for Lewis and Clark. It shows that virtually every incoming 1st year received some aid (ie NONE paid full freight) Out of 511 incoming students last year, 326 were “deemed to have financial need” and all were given FA. Of those 89 were also given merit. The remainder of students (who were deemed to have no financial need) 184 in number, all were given merit with an average award of $25k+ This won’t tell you exactly how much money your kid stands to be offered there, but the NPC probably will give you a very close idea once you know there’s basically 100% chance she’ll get financial aid and or merit money. Lots of SLACs don’t give merit to that many students, but the CDS will tell you to how many. If it’s 5% you might not bother. If it’s 50% and your kid’s stats are much higher than the average it’s worth a good look. Some don’t give merit to anyone, but these generally “meet need” as they determine it and it’s often pretty generous especially with 4 kids in school. My son is starting at St. Olaf this fall and they are a rare combination of “meets needs” and they give merit to about 50% of students. His final cost as an anecdote, is about 75% of what the FASFA estimated our cost “should” be.

I found this was all a lot of work but worth it. The west coast and North East SLAC’s tend to have a higher bottom line than the midwest and south but not for every student. Good luck!

1 Like

What is a SLAC vs an LAC?

Small LAC. I confess I wasn’t using it with any technical precision.
I wonder, too and found Selective LAC

Bard College
Bryn Mawr College
Colorado College
Grinnell College
Haverford College
St. Olaf College
Vassar College

1 Like

Just looked it up and US News says most colleges in its Liberal Arts Ranking are under 2,500 students. So are SLAC’s even smaller? Just see this term used a lot on this board and never understood what it meant. Or if it means “selective” based on whose criteria? Clearly Amherst would be a “SLAC” but what about Gettysburg or Lewis & Clark?

Flagler in Florida.