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What Does it Really Cost to Attend Columbia University in the City of New York?

As one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in the US, and right at the heart the cultural and finance hub of New York City, Columbia University is a dream school for many students. A degree from Columbia doesn’t come with a small price tag though, and paired with the high cost of living of New York City, you may wonder how your family might be able to afford four years at this private university.


The truth is that the tuition you see listed on the university’s website is only an umbrella number, and can be misleading.The cost of attending college is highly variable, and the good news is most students don’t pay the list price. What you should look at instead is net cost; this includes what families typically pay out of pocket, including student loans.


Here we’ve broken down the costs of attending Columbia University in the City of New York, and the different options you have for funding a college education.   


Want to learn what Columbia University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Columbia University needs to know.


Columbia University’s List Price


A good place to start for estimating the costs of a four-year education at Columbia would be the university’s page for the cost of attendance. The numbers may be a bit of a shock, but don’t let these numbers dissuade you or your child.


For the 2016–2017 school year, the estimated price of attending Columbia was $71,785 for both in-state students out-of-state students, since it’s a private institution. This is the list price, and it includes the tuition as well as room and board. This list price is the number you will find most easily when looking up tuition for universities.


Remember that this is only the list price; most families don’t pay this price. In general, families who have an annual income of over $175,000 will pay the full list price. In addition, if the university offers merit aid, and the student qualifies, even these families may be paying less than the list price. It’s worth noting here that many universities don’t offer merit aid, including Columbia.


Cost of Attendance with Financial Aid


At Columbia, many students will receive financial aid. For the 2016-2017 school year, the average cost of attendance at Columbia University was $59,007 for both in-state and out-of-state students.


Cost Based on Family Income


The net cost of attendance is based on each individual student’s family income, so when factoring in financial aid, the number is highly variable. The respective costs for a Columbia undergraduate student based on household income are below:


  • $0-$30,000: $9,481*
  • $30,001-$48,000: $5,251
  • $48,001-$75,000: $6,592
  • $75,001-$110,000: $17,143
  • > $110,000: $40,464


*These numbers do not reflect any Pell Grants that families may receive. Families with an income of $0-30k often receive Federal Pell Grants, which reduce the amount of financial aid that individual institutions need to award. This is why there is a higher tuition rate for families with $0-30k vs. those with $30k-48k.


Merit Aid Net Prices and Net Prices for Students Without Need


Financial aid comes in two general types: need-based aid and merit-based aid. The numbers we’ve been talking about until now have revolved around need-based financial aid, in which the amount of financial support given to a student is based on financial need—usually family income.


Merit aid, on the other hand, is granted to students who the university determines to demonstrate exceptional performance and potential. It often comes in the form of a scholarship.


Since it is already highly selective, Columbia University does not offer any type of merit aid. That means that students and families who don’t need financial support will pay the full list price of $71,785.


Columbia is not alone in offering solely need-based financial aid. In fact, none of the Ivy League universities offer merit-based financial aid.

Student Loans and Debts

Students attending Columbia University don’t need to worry about paying back student loans. Columbia does not give loans; all of its need-based financial aid comes as grants or student work.


Student Outcomes


Investing in college is a big decision, and it’s definitely useful to have an idea of how graduates are doing financially down the line, especially if you have loans to pay back. The statistics we’ve gathered about Columbia graduates are promising. 92% of Columbia students graduate within 6 years, and the average salary ten years post-graduation is $83,300.


Local Area Cost Considerations


Of course, a college student will have expenses aside from those that are strictly for college, so the living costs of the local area are important to factor into college cost calculations.


As we all know, New York is infamous for its high cost of living. New York, NY has a cost of living index of 209.3, which means that it’s 2 times more expensive to live there than in other places in the U.S. in general. Housing plays the biggest role here; it is 3.5 times more expensive to both buy and rent in New York than in the rest of the U.S. on average. In 2019, a one-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $2,821, and a two-bedroom for $3,670. At Columbia, all first year students are required to live on-campus.


For students looking to work off-campus jobs, the employment scene is relatively encouraging. The minimum wage in New York $11.10 is per hour. As of 2017, the average hourly wage was $21.00.


Other Ways to Save on College  


We’ve covered the two main types of financial aid, as well as student loans, but there are yet more ways students can help fund their college education, such as the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program. Students who take the PSAT are automatically considered for qualification, and the program awards a $2,500 to winners. Read more about the National Merit Scholarship program here. You can also learn more about fellowships on Columbia’s financial aid webpage.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to Columbia? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
Kimberly graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature. This year, she has been based in Beijing, China, where she works in the education field and rescues dogs in her free time. She will be starting her masters at Columbia University in the fall.