At elite colleges, the rich stay rich [SLIDESHOW]

Shopping for the right college is a bit like shopping for carpets in the depths of a souk in Marrakesh. Only a sucker would dream of paying the full sticker price. However, getting to the actual price you’ll pay involves an elaborate, unavoidable, grossly inefficient dance. In Marrakesh, the dance is bargaining; at American colleges, it’s mostly filling out a bunch of forms.

There is some good news, though. If you or your kids happen to have exceptional academic credentials, a handful of the most illustrious colleges and universities in the country have eliminated loans (at least to some extent).

These schools have replaced loans with grants that never need to be repaid, thus reducing student debt considerably — often down to zero. On-campus jobs, summer savings and, especially, endowments bigger than the GDPs of some countries, make up the difference.

You’ll still owe your Expected Family Contribution, of course. But you’ll owe that anyway, whether you go to a prestigious liberal arts college or the nearest state university. The difference is that most schools — public and private — will gladly make student loans and parent loans part of your financial aid package.

Check out the schools in the slideshow below, and good luck getting admitted (because you’ll probably need it).

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