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What Does It Cost to Attend Grinnell College?

Ranked by U.S. News as the 11th best Liberal Arts College in the nation, it’s no wonder so many college-bound students are anxious to become “Grinnellians” and attend Grinnell College. This “Little School on the Prairie” has a lot to offer incoming students, including rigorous academics, a low student-to-teacher ratio, a world-class internship program, a lively social scene, and a beautiful rural campus. It also has a large price tag.


Like most highly regarded private colleges and universities, the list price of attending Grinnell is high. According to an EAB survey of more than 54,000 students admitted to college in 2016, 11% of students said no to their first-choice institution—of that 11% (almost 6,000 students) 40% declined their dream school due to concerns over cost. Students who dream of attending Grinnell College shouldn’t let its high published price discourage them from applying. The truth is that very few students pay full price for their college education.


Why College Costs Are Highly Variable


Although the list price of Grinnell can be disheartening for students, the college doesn’t want the cost to be a barrier from attracting qualified applicants. And while published price provides a general idea of the expense of an institution, it rarely is what a student ends up paying.


There are numerous factors that go into calculating the cost of college, such as the amount of federal, state, and local government aid a student receives, along with any institutional aid and merit aid awarded. Net cost—the list price of college minus all of the financial aid received by a student—is a much better metric for making economic decisions about college because it offers a more accurate idea of the real cost of college.


What Is the List Price at Grinnell College?


Grinnell College’s list price, which includes tuition, room, and board, was $63,838 in 2016-2017 for both in- and out-of-state students. Before price-induced panic sets in, remember that most students do not pay list price for college. Students who do end up paying full price are typically from affluent families with annual incomes over $175,00 who fall outside of the top 30% academically of students accepted to Grinnell.


What Is the Grinnell College Financial Aid Net Price?


The financial aid net price of a college or university is the institution’s list price minus any financial aid awarded to the student from grants and scholarships. The average price of Grinnell when factoring in financial aid is $53,300 for both in- and out-of-state students—over $10,000 less than the college’s published price.


What Is the Family Income-Based Cost of Attending Grinnell College?


The price of Grinnell College varies greatly depending on the income level of a student’s family. Below are the average net amounts that families with different incomes pay for Grinnell College:


Family Income Average Net Price
Below $30,000 $13,774
$30,001-$48,000 $10,160*
$48,001-$75,000 $17,563
$75,001-$110,000 $22,792
$110,000+ $35,726

*The figures listed above don’t account for the Pell Grants families receive from the federal government. Students whose family incomes are between $0 and $30k may receive Federal Pell Grants, which lower the amount of financial aid private colleges pay them. In this sense, families in the $0 to $30k bracket may pay higher tuition costs than those in the $30k-48k bracket.


How Much Merit Aid do Grinnell College Students Receive?


Merit aid is awarded to students without regard for financial need and rewards students for a host of reasons both in and out of the classroom. For example, merit aid is often awarded for academic achievement, athletic skill, artistic talent, community service, and/or extracurricular activities.


Roughly half of Grinnell students (47.5%) without financial need receive merit aid, with $8,234 being the average amount awarded. The average net price of Grinnell College for a student who doesn’t qualify for financial aid is $55,604.

How Many Grinnell College Students Take Out Loans?


Even with financial aid and merit scholarships, many students turn to loans to help pay for school. 45% of Grinnell students have student loans. The average amount borrowed through federal student loans per Grinnell undergraduate is $2,452.


Student Outcomes at Grinnell College


Looking at the student outcomes is a great way to assess the return on investment offered by a college. Grinnell College graduates 84% of its students within six years, which is far above the national average. This means students are out of school (avoiding costly extra years of college) and in the workforce earning a salary.


Speaking of salary, the average salary of a Grinnellian ten years after graduation is $49,100. For comparison, it’s considerably higher than the average salary of a Grinnell, Iowa, resident  ($41,068) but slightly lower than the average salary of residents in the two closest big cities, Des Moines ($51,340) and Cedar Rapids ($50,287).


Local Area Cost Considerations


Sperling’s Best Places ranks the cost of living index for Grinnell, Iowa at 86.8, making Grinnell roughly 13% less expensive than the national average and slightly less expensive than the average Iowan town or city (89.5). Cost of living index is a theoretical number used to approximate the cost of living in a particular area, taking into account factors like housing, transportation, utilities, groceries, etc.




All students, with a few exceptions, are required to live on Grinnell’s campus in what Grinnell calls clusters, but could also be called neighborhoods. Each cluster has its unique spaces, communal personalities, and traditions designed to foster a sense of community and complement a student’s academic life.


If you are one of the rare Grinnellians who qualify to live off campus, you’ll discover the cost of housing in the Grinnell area is quite affordable—Sperling’s ranks it below both the national average and state average in affordability. Below is a look at what a Grinnell Student can expect to pay per month in rent for an apartment:


  • One Bedroom: $547
  • Two Bedroom: $713
  • Three Bedroom: $897




The minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25 an hour, making Iowa one of the 21 states whose minimum wage is in line with the federal rate. However, Grinnell College participates in the Federal Work-Study Program as well as maintaining its own institutionally funded work-study program, and the minimum wage paid at both programs is $8 an hour.


Grinnell Students can also participate in Grinnell’s Service Learning Work-Study (SLWS). Through SLWS, students are employed in paid positions in community-driven service projects in local non-profit and governmental organizations. In addition to earning a wage, these positions serve the community and allow students to further explore civic interests.


Other Ways to Save Money on College


Merit scholarships are a great way for college-bound students to save extra money on the cost of school. At Grinnell, all first-year applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships with scholarships awarded on a holistic basis during the admission process.


In addition to institutional aid, many Grinnell students will apply for some of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships. Historically, Grinnell students have a high rate of success in receiving renowned awards such as the Boren Scholarship, Goldwater Scholarship, and Udall Scholarship. Grinnell maintains a web page where students can learn more about national merit-based and Grinnell-specific awards.


The National Merit Scholarship program is another popular option for students looking to cut down on the cost of college. Roughly 15,000 students a year who scored in the top 1% on the PSAT/NMSQT receive grant money through the National Merit Program. If a student is not selected by either the National Merit Corporation (NMSC) or one of their sponsors to receive an award, Grinnell College can sponsor the scholarship for finalists, so long as Grinnell is listed as the student’s first choice school with the NMSC. Check out our blog How to Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program to learn more about National Merit Scholarships.


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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.