Our Approach to Financial Aid

Carleton’s mission is to provide an exceptional undergraduate liberal arts education. We recognize that it takes significant resources to have the best faculty, to keep class sizes small, to have outstanding facilities and equipment, and, most importantly, to enroll the best and brightest students regardless of their family’s financial situations. Our financial aid program is designed to support these goals to make Carleton affordable and worth the investment.

Financing College is a Partnership

Carleton approaches aid as a partnership with families, including guardians and students. We start by determining what families can contribute using the CSS Profile and FAFSA. Carleton’s financial aid package of grants, loans, and student employment fills the gap between what families can pay and the remaining cost of attendance.

Need-based Aid

We prioritize need-based aid

All admitted students have demonstrated a high degree of merit. Given that, we believe the most equitable way to distribute aid is based on need, as opposed to merit. Nearly all of the financial aid awarded at Carleton is distributed as need-based aid. 

About 40-45% of families pay the full cost of attendance, and around 55-60% receive a financial aid package that is largely grants (no repayment needed), as well as a manageable amount of loans and work-study.

National Merit Program

The National Merit Program is the only Non-Need-based Aid

Carleton participates in only two merit programs: the National Merit Scholarship Program and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Students who are finalists in these programs receive a $2,000 award per year for their four years at Carleton as a recognition of the accomplishments of these scholars. Carleton enrolls a significant number of National Merit Scholars — 34 in the class of 2025 alone — and has enrolled more National Merit Scholars than many other small liberal arts colleges for several years.