The 20 top-tier schools where the most students get financial aid

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  • Millions of students across the US are starting or returning to college, which keeps getting more expensive.
  • Using data from the Department of Education, we looked at how many students received federal financial aid at the top schools on U.S. News and World Report's annual college rankings.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Millions of students across the US are starting or returning to college. As tuition continues to balloon, the finances of higher education are at the top of mind for many of those students.

Student debt and rising costs have financially burdened the millennial generation, and things are likely to continue getting worse. Financial aid from the government, private scholarships, and colleges themselves can go a long way in mitigating those costs.

We took a look at top-ranked schools where a high share of students received federal financial aid.

One of the main sources of financial aid to students comes from the federal government's Pell Grant program. Pell Grants are intended to make college more accessible to students from families who would not be able to afford ever-rising tuition otherwise. The grants, which can be up to $6,195 per year, are awarded based on a student's financial need and family situation.

We started by looking at the top 100 national universities and top 100 national liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News and World Report 2019 college rankings. Then, we found the share of students at those schools who received Pell Grants in the 2016-2017 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Department of Education's College Scorecard database. Many schools and state governments offer additional financial aid to students, but Pell Grants represent a national baseline allowing a comparison of all colleges in the US.

Here are the 20 schools among the top-ranked colleges with the highest share of Pell Grant recipients in the 2016-17 academic year according to College Scorecard, along with their tuition and enrollment in the 2018-19 academic year, as reported by U.S. News:

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20. Rutgers University: 29.4% of students received Pell Grants.

20. Rutgers University: 29.4% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey

Out-of-state tuition: $31,282

In-state tuition: $14,974

Enrollment: 35,641

19. Allegheny College: 29.4% of students received Pell Grants.

19. Allegheny College: 29.4% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Meadvile, Pennsylvania

Tuition: $47,540

Enrollment: 1,802

18. Florida State University: 30.5% of students received Pell Grants.

18. Florida State University: 30.5% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Out-of-state tuition: $21,673

In-state tuition: $6,507

Enrollment: 33,008

17. University at Buffalo (SUNY): 31.3% of students received Pell Grants.

17. University at Buffalo (SUNY): 31.3% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Buffalo, New York

Out-of-state tuition: $27,758

In-state tuition: $10,028

Enrollment: 21,020

16. Illinois Institute of Technology: 31.5% of students received Pell Grants.

16. Illinois Institute of Technology: 31.5% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Tuition: $47,646

Enrollment: 2,900

15. College of the Atlantic: 31.6% of students received Pell Grants.

15. College of the Atlantic: 31.6% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Bar Harbor, Maine

Tuition: $43,542

Enrollment: 349

14. Stony Brook University (SUNY): 32.0% of students received Pell Grants.

14. Stony Brook University (SUNY): 32.0% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Stony Brook, New York

Out-of-state tuition: $26,934

In-state tuition: $9,624

Enrollment: 17,364

13. Knox College: 32.5% of students received Pell Grants.

13. Knox College: 32.5% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Galesburg, Illinois

Tuition: $46,554

Enrollment: 1,356

12. University of California – Los Angeles: 33.8% of students received Pell Grants.

12. University of California – Los Angeles: 33.8% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Out-of-state tuition: $41,294

In-state tuition: $13,280

Enrollment: 31,002

11. University of California – San Diego: 34.3% of students received Pell Grants.

11. University of California – San Diego: 34.3% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: San Diego, California

Out-of-state tuition: $42,074

In-state tuition: $14,060

Enrollment: 28,587

10. Brigham Young University: 36.4% of students received Pell Grants.

10. Brigham Young University: 36.4% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Provo, Utah

Tuition: $5,620

Enrollment: 31,233

9. University of California – Santa Barbara: 36.5% of students received Pell Grants.

9. University of California – Santa Barbara: 36.5% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Santa Barbara, California

Out-of-state tuition: $42,486

In-state tuition: $14,472

Enrollment: 22,186

8. Agnes Scott College: 37.7% of students received Pell Grants.

8. Agnes Scott College: 37.7% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Decatur, Georgia

Tuition: $41,160

Enrollment: 921

7. University of California – Davis: 38.5% of students received Pell Grants.

7. University of California – Davis: 38.5% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Davis, California

Out-of-state tuition: $43,458

In-state tuition: $14,463

Enrollment: 30,145

6. University of California – Santa Cruz: 39.4% of students received Pell Grants.

6. University of California – Santa Cruz: 39.4% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Santa Cruz, California

Out-of-state tuition: $41,963

In-state tuition: $13,949

Enrollment: 17,577

5. University of California – Irvine: 42.3% of students received Pell Grants.

5. University of California – Irvine: 42.3% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Irvine, California

Out-of-state tuition: $43,530

In-state tuition: $15,516

Enrollment: 29,307

4. Howard University: 46.3% of students received Pell Grants.

4. Howard University: 46.3% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Washington, DC

Tuition: $26,756

Enrollment: 6,354

3. Spelman College: 48.6% of students received Pell Grants.

3. Spelman College: 48.6% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Tuition: $29,064

Enrollment: 2,137

2. University of California – Riverside: 55.8% of students received Pell Grants.

2. University of California – Riverside: 55.8% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Riverside, California

Out-of-state tuition: $42,879

In-state tuition: $13,887

Enrollment: 20,069

1. Berea College: 82.0% of students received Pell Grants.

1. Berea College: 82.0% of students received Pell Grants.

Location: Berea, Kentucky

Tuition: $560

Enrollment: 1,670

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