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Cheapest and Most Expensive Ivy League Schools

What’s Covered:


The Ivy League feels unattainable for many students, both admissions- and price-wise. But you may be surprised to learn that attending an Ivy can sometimes be more affordable than attending a public university! 


In this post, we’ll share the cheapest and most expensive Ivies, and discuss their different financial aid policies.


Are Ivy Leagues Expensive?


Ivies are often stereotyped as being insanely expensive, and it’s true; as top-ranked private colleges, all have sticker prices upwards of $70,000 once room, board, tuition, and fees are accounted for. Additionally, Ivies generally don’t offer merit or athletic scholarships. 


Luckily, this hefty price isn’t necessarily what all students pay. These schools have large endowments, allowing them to accept students with excellent qualifications regardless of their financial status. Consequently, some students pay less for an Ivy League education than they would have at their in-state public university. For some students, attending an Ivy is even free!


For starters, many of the Ivies are need-blind for domestic applicants, meaning that a student’s ability to pay does not factor into their admissions chances. Some schools, including many Ivies, are need-aware for international students, however.


Some schools are no-loan, meaning they provide financial aid without the expectation of repayment. This doesn’t mean that students at no-loan colleges are exempt from taking out loans altogether, however; you or your family will be expected to pay any funds not covered by financial aid on your own, sometimes through student loans. 


Finally, students who need financial aid will likely be drawn to universities that meet 100% of demonstrated need. This policy has its action in the title; under it, the university will provide enough aid to cover the difference between your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the school’s Cost of Attending (COA).


Many Ivies have at least two of the aforementioned policies (need-blind and meets 100% need), if not all three. 

Ivy League Schools by Sticker Price




Sticker Price

Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island


Columbia University

New York, New York


University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire


Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut


Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts


Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey


Cornell University

Ithaca, New York


Note: tuition differs depending on state residency and college/school choice as some Cornell colleges are public for NY state residents


Note: Listed prices do not all include travel expenses, as those differ on a case-by-case basis.


If you’re like most people, these sums seem intimidating, but don’t worry; the policies we mentioned earlier will likely reduce your financial burden at any of these schools. 


Brown University


Sticker Price: $80,448

Average Net Price: $57,717


Brown awarded an average of $52,881 in financial aid to first years in 2020, and 44% of students received need-based aid. Brown is need-blind for first-year, first-time U.S. citizens and residents, including DACA and undocumented students. However, they are need-aware for internationals, though admitted ones have 100% of their financial need met, just like domestic students. 


Brown is also no-loan. Through The Brown Promise initiative, they have eliminated packaged loans from all undergraduate financial aid awards. All students demonstrating financial need will have it met through work-study programs, on-campus employment, and financial aid.


Columbia University


Sticker Price: $80,339

Average Net Price: $53,491


About half of all Columbia undergrads receive some sort of financial assistance, and the school has the highest proportion of undergrads receiving Pell Grants in the Ivy League. Parents with calculated total incomes and assets below $60,000 are not expected to contribute anything towards tuition, room, board, or mandatory fees. In 2021, Columbia awarded an average of $61,365 of aid to first-year students.


Columbia is need-blind for domestic students (including undocumented ones and those with refugee visas) but need-aware for international students. 


Columbia is no loan. The school guarantees that they will meet 100% of all first-years’ demonstrated financial need for all four years, regardless of citizenship status. 


First-year international applicants must indicate their intention to apply for aid at the time of their admission application. If not, they will not be able to change their aid application status, even if their financial circumstances change. If aid is not awarded to an international student at the time of admission, it will not be awarded in the following years. 


University of Pennsylvania


Sticker Price: $79,635

Average Net Price: $56,246


In 2020, the University of Pennsylvania awarded an average of $53,107 to first-year students through need-based grants. Forty-six percent of students received need-based financial aid that year through federal loans and work-study programs.


The University of Pennsylvania has pledged to meet 100% of all first-years’ demonstrated financial need for all four years via grants and work-study funding. UPenn’s goal is for students to graduate debt-free, so the school is no-loan as well. 


UPenn practices need-blind admission for students from the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, and need-aware admissions for the rest. International students not admitted with financial aid in their first year may not apply for aid in any subsequent years. However, international students who do receive aid have 100% of their demonstrated need met, just like domestic undergrads. Since international students are not eligible for federal funding, all of their aid will come directly from the institution, so they may have to pay some taxes on any federal funding they receive from Penn.


Dartmouth College


Sticker Price: $79,525

Average Net Price: $52,552


Dartmouth aid recipients received an average grant of over $60,000 for the 2020-2021 school year, and approximately 51% of Dartmouth students receive some form of financial aid. The average student debt for all four years combined is $20,373.


Dartmouth covers 100% of demonstrated need for all students, including internationals, but they are only need-blind for domestic students. The school covers the full cost of tuition for families with an annual income of $100,000 or less and typical assets. Students with families making more than that often receive aid as well, but Dartmouth is only truly no-loan for families making under $100,000. 


Dartmouth’s financial aid policies, tuition, and family EFC is the same for a study-abroad semester as it is for an on-campus one, and the school often helps fund unpaid internships and research. 


Yale University


Sticker Price: $78,850

Average Net Price: $49,514


Yale awards an average of $60,970 to first-years, and 53% of students are on financial aid. The median student receiving aid pays about $13,000, and over 1000 Yale families pay under $6,000 per year. Yale meets the full demonstrated need of all admitted students regardless of citizenship status or country of origin, and they’re one of only five colleges that are need-blind for both domestic and international applicants. 


Yale is no-loan for all students with demonstrated financial need. Federal work-study programs are available to students who have federal eligibility as shown by their completed FAFSA paperwork. 


Harvard University


Sticker Price: $75,857

Average Net Price: $53,528


Rather boldly, the school claims, “Yes—you can afford Harvard” on their financial aid website, promising that finances will not keep a student from attending. Twenty percent of Harvard students attend for free, and 55% receive need-based aid. Families earning between $65,000 and $150,000 can expect to pay between zero and ten percent of their annual income. The school is no-loan for all students with financial need.


Harvard meets the full demonstrated need of all admitted students regardless of citizenship status or country of origin and practices need-blind admissions for both domestic and international applicants. The average parent contribution is $12,000, and 100% of students can graduate debt-free.


In addition to tuition aid, Harvard offers millions of dollars in student funding for community service, research, learning, international travel, and career opportunities.


Princeton University


Sticker Price: $75,210

Average Net Price: $13,450


Princeton is commonly regarded as the “cheapest Ivy” thanks to its extensive financial aid offerings.  62% of admitted students receive financial aid. The school meets full demonstrated need and 83% of recent seniors graduated debt-free, in part due to Princeton’s complete no-loan financial aid policies. The school offered an average aid package of $59,598 to 2019-2020 freshmen, more than covering the school’s $52,800 tuition expenses. Students from families making under $65,000 per year receive full coverage of their tuition, fees, room, and board.


Like Harvard and Yale, Princeton practices need-blind admissions for international and domestic applicants alike.


Cornell University


Sticker Price: $72,468

Average Net Price: $55,527


Cornell is made up of nine undergraduate colleges and schools, and for in-state students, the cost of tuition may depend on which one they are enrolled in (some colleges at Cornell are state schools!).


First-year students at Cornell University received an average need-based scholarship of $50,772. Forty-seven percent of students receive need-based financial aid. Cornell is need-blind for domestic applicants and need-aware for internationals, and it fully meets demonstrated need for all admitted students. Those admitted to Cornell who wish to attend but were offered a stronger financial aid package from Stanford, Duke, MIT, or another Ivy may ask Cornell to match the competing offer.


Cornell is no-loan only for students with a family income of under $60,000 and assets of less than $100,000, including primary home equity. Students may apply a combination of Cornell Grants and part-time work-study programs to meet their full demonstrated need. The mean debt at graduation among Cornell students who borrow is under $24,000.


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment (FASE) has established an Emergency Fund to assist currently enrolled students with unanticipated expenses.


How Much Will it Cost You to Attend an Ivy?


Many students won’t pay the full sticker price, and the listed average net price isn’t usually what you’ll pay, either; it’s just intended to give you an idea of the aid offered. The Office of Financial Aid at every college will review your application on an individual, case-by-case basis, taking the various unique elements of your financial circumstances into an account.


Each school covered here has a net price calculator to give you a more realistic sense of what you will actually have to pay, which may be much higher or lower than the listed averages. The calculators can’t predict your cost with 100% accuracy, but they should give you a solid idea of what to expect.


If you’re on the hunt for more affordable schools to round out your list, check out our school search tool. Our detailed algorithm lets you filter through hundreds of colleges using dozens of factors, including cost. 


If you’re unsure of your actual chances at any of these schools, try our free Chancing Engine! It will help you predict your odds, understand how you stack up against other applicants, and suggest aspects of your profile to improve. Unlike other solely stats-based chancing calculators, ours considers your profile holistically, taking into consideration your quantitative stats, qualitative extracurriculars, and demographic background. 


Tips for Saving Money in College


College is more expensive now than ever, but that doesn’t mean you have to be saddled with crushing student loan debt! You may alleviate some of your future stresses through some of our following tips:


1. Apply to schools with fantastic financial aid offerings. 


The aforementioned Ivies, as well as most Top 20 universities and liberal arts colleges, tend to have endowments allowing for a world-class education at an affordable price.


2. Don’t discount safeties! 


Many of them may be more affordable for you than a “top” private school, and since you’ll be in the upper 75% of their applicant pool, you’ll be especially eligible for any merit-based scholarships. Attending a safety for your undergraduate years is an especially smart move for students who ultimately aim to attend grad school. Scholarships and honors programs can keep students academically challenged and financially stable before they shoot for top graduate programs.


3. Focus on institutionally-funded scholarships over external ones. 


As explained in our “Secret to Winning Merit Scholarships” blog post, many great schools allocate significant scholarship funds to already-admitted students. The exception to this “rule” lies in the case of the National Merit Scholarship Programwhich automatically gives high PSAT scorers a shot at high academic recognition and substantial scholarship wins.


4. Check out local scholarships! 


Nationwide ones are great, but it’s exceedingly difficult to beat out tens of thousands of other similarly-qualified students. By contrast, local scholarships can garner substantial wins, especially because you’ll only be competing against other kids in your hometown.


5. Look into Questbridge if you’re a low-income high-achiever. 


The program “matches” qualifying students with one of 40 prestigious U.S. colleges and universities, where they can receive a four-year undergraduate degree for free.


6. Be open to work-study programs and opportunities if you have any demonstrated financial need.


We touched on them earlier in this post, and they really are great ways to lessen your financial burden. Eligible students work part-time jobs to supplement their educational expenses, often learning valuable skills in the process. The jobs are typically civic and service-oriented or somehow related to your intended career path.

Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer

Short Bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!