Are Ivy League Schools Worth the Cost?
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- Ivy League schools offer a top education, but many students think they're too expensive.
- While base tuition is high, Ivy League schools offer large financial aid packages.
- Low-income students, in particular, can benefit from strong financial support.
- Explore income-based financial aid options before ruling out the Ivy League.
The Ivy League is renowned for its academic prestige — and its reputation of being unaffordable. However, to diversify their student body, these schools increasingly offer high levels of financial support for low-income students. Applicants with strong grades and low family income may even qualify for a full ride.
An Ivy League education can benefit students academically, socially, and professionally. So, is the Ivy League worth it? The answer comes down to financial aid and the opportunities available at these top-ranked colleges.
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How Much Is Ivy League Tuition?
There's no arguing that Ivy League schools charge higher tuition rates than public schools. However, Ivy League institutions also boast extremely large endowments and generous financial aid packages, which can greatly offset tuition costs.
Grants and scholarships offer education funding that never requires repayment, while work-study jobs provide extra income for students in school.
Brown University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $83,683
Average Net Cost: $27,659
Average Financial Aid: $47,590
Brown ranks on the higher end of the tuition spectrum, both for the total cost of attendance and average net cost after financial aid. However, on average, students still receive a significant financial aid award, bringing total costs down to a level comparable to many colleges.
Columbia University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $85,967
Average Net Cost: $22,126
Average Financial Aid: $45,881
Based in New York City, Columbia features one of the highest total costs of attendance of any Ivy League school. However, the school awards a sizable amount of financial aid per student. Factoring in financial aid, Columbia boasts one of the lower average net costs among Ivy League institutions.
Cornell University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $62,798 for state-funded colleges and $83,296 for privately-funded colleges
Average Net Cost: $27,522
Average Financial Aid: $49,149
Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell boasts the lowest cost of attendance before financial aid at its state-funded schools. Costs for its privately-funded colleges are on par with the rest of the Ivy League. Despite enormous financial aid awards of nearly $50,000 per student, the school still features one of the highest average net costs of attendance of any Ivy League school.
Dartmouth College Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $83,802
Average Net Cost: $24,525
Average Financial Aid: $47,411
Dartmouth ranks on the higher end of the spectrum for the total cost of attendance, charging more than $80,000 annually for room and board. However, this New Hampshire-based college offers robust financial aid, bringing the average net cost down to around $24,000 per year.
Princeton University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $74,190
Average Net Cost: $18,685
Average Financial Aid: $56,126
Princeton offers some of the best financial aid, awarding an average of more than $56,000 per student. This generous aid lowers the school's average net cost, and Princeton students can expect to pay under $19,000 per year after receiving aid.
Harvard University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $76,763
Average Net Cost: $18,037
Average Financial Aid: $52,257
Another of the top Ivy League schools, Harvard offers extremely generous financial aid packages, awarding more than $52,000 per student. The school's total cost of attendance ranks lower than most other Ivy League members, and the average net cost comes to just over $18,000 per year.
University of Pennsylvania Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $85,738
Average Net Cost: $24,167
Average Financial Aid: $44,232
Located in Philadelphia, UPenn features one of the highest costs of attendance in the Ivy League. As with other members, the school offers a high level of financial support, averaging more than $44,000 per student. However, average net costs at UPenn hover in the middle of the Ivy League, at about $24,000 per year.
Yale University Tuition
Cost of Attendance: $84,525
Average Net Cost: $17,511
Average Financial Aid: $58,244
Yale offers the largest average financial aid package — $58,000 per student. This immense financial support results in equivalently low tuition rates, and Yale offers the lowest average net cost among Ivy League schools, at under $18,000 per year.
Is the Ivy League Worth It?
An elite reputation and strong professional connections make the Ivy League an obvious choice for higher education. However, determining whether Ivy League schools are worth it requires answering a few important questions.
How Much Do You or Your Parents Make?
Your or your parents' income will likely have the greatest impact in determining whether the Ivy league is worth it. Ivy League schools use income to calculate how much financial aid you receive, which can dramatically affect your tuition rate.
For example, Yale charges an average net price of just $961 for students with an annual family income under $30,000. For those with an annual family income over $110,000, the price balloons to more than $39,000 per year.
If you're an independent student, Ivy League schools will use your income, rather than your parents', to determine financial aid.
How Much Do You Expect to Make After Graduation?
Whether the Ivy League is worth it can also depend on what type of career you plan to pursue after graduation. Every college degree offers a return on investment (ROI), which compares how much you pay in tuition to how much you expect to earn in your field. Certain fields, like pharmacy or business, offer a higher ROI compared to other academic majors.
Knowing you want to enter a high-paying field might make Ivy League schools worth it. However, less lucrative fields, such as the humanities, might not be worth an Ivy League education unless you receive significant financial aid.
Costs of State Schools vs. the Ivy League
Even with financial aid awards, Ivy League schools may not match the affordability of state schools. However, the Ivy League offers other benefits that can offset high tuition costs.
Cost of Attendance
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduates at public four-year schools paid an average of $9,400 in tuition and fees during the 2019-2020 school year. Meanwhile, Ivy League students in 2019-2020 paid an average of $22,500 after financial aid. For most students, determining whether Ivy League schools are worth it will come down to their financial aid awards.
Salaries After Graduation
The Ivy League offers at least one benefit that can't be calculated: prestige. The professional connections gained by attending an Ivy League school can lead to high-paying careers and increased opportunities long after graduation.