What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What Does It Really Cost to Attend Harvard?

If you run a search for a college’s cost of tuition, the number that shows up can be frightening. This number is the college’s list price, but there’s good news. An institution’s list price is actually highly variable and subject to change. In fact, very few students will end up paying this full price.


Because the list price fails to account for financial aid, a far better means of assessing price is to look at a college’s net cost. Net cost is a college’s price, including loans, with government aid (federal, state, and local), institutional financial aid, and merit scholarships subtracted out. This is a much better indicator of what the average family will end up paying out of pocket for any given school, although even this price tag will vary family to family.


So, how does the list price and net cost compare to what you will actually pay at a school like Harvard? Read on to get a better sense of the financial factors at play when you’re calculating the price tag on Harvard University.


Want to learn what Harvard 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 Harvard University needs to know.


What Is Harvard’s List Price?


The list price of a college is the school’s tuition, room, and board combined into the maximum price an attendee might pay. For Harvard, this price tag came to $66,900 for both in- and out-of-state students from 2016 to 2017. However, this price is generally applicable only to families with an annual income above $175,000 whose student is outside of Harvard’s top 30% of accepted students.


What Is The Price With Financial Aid?


One of the most important factors that plays into lowering Harvard’s cost of attendance is financial aid, which many students qualify for. Below we’ve highlighted the average net price for Harvard attendees, or, in other words, the list price minus the average financial aid received by students.


Average Net Price for In- and Out-of-State Students receiving financial aid: $54,763


As you can see, this number is already a lot lower than the list price published by Harvard. However, it’s important to realize that net price is dependent on a family’s income. To give you a better sense of the price applicable to your family, we’ve broken down the average net price by income bracket.


Family Income Average Net Price
$0-$30,000 $3.294*
$30,001-$48,000 $1,665
$48,001-$75,000 $6,577
$75,001-$110,000 $21,958
$110,000 $44,238

*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.


What is the Merit Aid Net Price?


Merit aid is a type of scholarship awarded based on academic skill rather than financial need. Harvard does not offer merit aid to many of its attendees, as all students who go there demonstrate high levels of merit. However, 0.5% of students do end up receiving need-blind scholarship money, with an average award of $178 and a subsequent average net price of $66,722 for students who don’t qualify for financial aid.

How Many Students Take Out Loans?


After factoring in scholarships and financial aid, many students find they still need help meeting the price tag and will opt to take out student loans. At Harvard, 81% of students choose to go this route, the average federal loan totaling a modest $911 per student.


Local Area Cost Considerations


When you estimate the price you’ll be paying for college, a very important factor to consider is the area in which the college is located. Cost of living, wages, and other elements all vary widely from area to area. Harvard, for example, is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.


Boston is ranked in the top five most expensive cities in the country and has a cost of living index of 181.6. Compared to the U.S. average of 100 and Massachusetts’ overall score of 139, Boston’s cost of living is substantial. The main contributor to this score is the price of housing, which is well above the country’s average. Harvard supplies the following averages for nearby off-campus housing:


  • One Bedroom: $1,800
  • Two Bedrooms: $2,100
  • Three Bedrooms: $3,400


For some, these prices are a limiting factor and must be considered when determining the true price of attending a college in the area. However, these steep prices are mitigated by the area’s $12 minimum wage and average hourly pay of $33.26, both of which are higher than the national average.


What Do Student Outcomes Look Like At Harvard?


In some cases, the degree a student graduates with is the most important financial consideration of all. If you’re still having trouble deciding if Harvard and Boston’s price tags are worth it, it might be helpful to take a look at the outcome of students who end up enrolling at Harvard University.


Harvard’s five-year graduation rate is 96%, meaning 96% of students graduate Harvard in five years or less. This is compared to a national average of about 60% for four-year institutions. Harvard’s graduation rates is amongst the highest in the U.S.


As for life after college, student prospects ten years out look promising, with an average salary of $89,700. The average U.S. salary for someone in their late 30s is under $50,000 per year, so in this category as well, Harvard is doing considerably better.


In short, while Harvard is by no means cheap, the vast majority of graduates do see a considerable return on their investment.


What Are Other Ways to Save on College?


Looking for more ways to save on college? Scholarships can be a great way of mitigating college expenses, but they’re also a numbers game. Because they’re so competitive, it’s important for your child to apply to as many as possible in order to increase their chance of receiving awards.


If your student receives scholarship funds from outside sources, such as the National Merit Scholarship Program, Harvard requires that these be reported and applied toward the college expense. These awards are taken into consideration when Harvard calculates financial aid. For more information on their scholarship policies, as well as a list of websites to find scholarships through, read through Harvard’s website here.  


Curious about your chances of acceptance to Harvard? 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
Rebecca Weinstein is an undergraduate student at Stanford University, where she plans to study English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she is not studying at college, she lives in Morris County, New Jersey with her two dogs and three cats.