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What Does it Really Cost to Attend Princeton University?

As one of the top universities in the nation, Princeton University is an extremely attractive option for high-achieving students. If your student plans on applying to Princeton, you’re probably wondering if your family will be able to afford the cost of education or if your student will end up burdened with debt.


Although prestigious private colleges often have higher costs than public institutions overall, very few students pay the listed “cost of attendance.” Instead, you’ll want to look at the net cost to you—what families like yours typically pay out-of-pocket—and how different types of aid will contribute to your net cost.


We’re breaking down what it really costs to attend Princeton University, and we’ll show you how your net cost may differ depending on your household income or if your student is a resident of New Jersey. We’ll give you the information you need so you can make an informed decision about whether Princeton is an affordable option for your family.


Want to learn what Princeton 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 Princeton University needs to know.

Princeton University’s List Price

If you were to take a look at Princeton’s website, you may experience some sticker-shock when you see the estimated cost for one year of attendance. When you multiply it by three to five years, depending on how long your student plans on being in college, the price can really add up!


The cost of attendance, or what we affectionately call the list price, includes tuition, room, board, and other miscellaneous costs of living. For the 2016-2017 year, the estimated cost of attendance for in-state and out-of-state students at Princeton was the same, around $63,690.


That said, most families do not pay the list price at any institution, whether it’s Princeton or another school. Typically, families with an annual household income over $175,000 tend to pay list price; if merit aid is offered at the school and their student qualifies, families can expect to pay less than list price. (As a heads up, Princeton doesn’t offer merit aid) In this post, we’ll go over some other ways to save that can help any family, regardless of income, reduce their net cost.

What is the Price with Financial Aid?

Hopefully knowing that you’re unlikely to pay the full list price has offered some relief. So what can you expect to pay once you factor in financial aid? Again, based on the 2016-2017 data, the average net cost for students with financial aid, either in-state or out-of-state, was $51,920.


Cost Based on Household Income

Your particular net cost is highly dependent on your household income, which will qualify your student for more or less financial aid. These are the average net prices for a student based on annual household income:

  • $0-$30,000: $2,469
  • $30,001-$48,000: $2,705
  • $48,001-$75,000: $4,557
  • $75,001-$110,000: $16,967
  • Over $110,000: $32,706


What is the Merit Aid Net Price? What is the Average Net Price for Students Without Need?

There are generally two broad types of financial aid: merit aid and need-based aid. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “merit aid,” it’s a form of financial aid offered to students who have performed exceptionally well academically—like having a high GPA or standardized test score—or who have some other exceptional personal accomplishment. These could be for students’ accomplishments in activities like sports and art, for their demonstrated leadership, or for completing a high number of community service hours.


As we said before, Princeton does not offer merit aid to any students, since most of the students who are admitted to Princeton are similarly accomplished both academically and personally. This means that if your family does not have any demonstrated financial need, you can expect to pay the full list price.


Because of its strict need-based policy, Princeton ranks 927th out of over 1000 schools we analyzed for merit aid generosity. You can review Princeton’s financial aid policies on their website.


Loans and Debt

Even students with only a moderate level of need will often need to find a way to cover the remaining educations costs. Just over half of the students at Princeton take out loans, around 55% of students, and the average size of the federal loans per undergraduate is $427. Many students find other ways to cover the cost of their education without taking on a large amount of debt, which we cover in greater detail below.



Given the significant financial investment that you would be making if your student chooses to attend Princeton, you might be curious to know whether most students graduate and how much they can expect to earn after graduation. Luckily, 96% of students at Princeton graduate within 6 years, and graduates tend to earn a higher salary in the long term. After ten years, the average Princeton graduate earns around $74,700 a year.

Other Ways to Save

For some, it may still seem that the price of a Princeton education is too high a cost to justify. However, we’ve only looked at two main sources of aid so far: institutional and federal aid, which in Princeton’s case are both need-based.


That said, your student can supplement the cost of college by applying for private scholarships with the help of their high school counselor or by working with a company like CollegeVine. These scholarships, which are often merit-based, are administered by corporations and nonprofit organizations and will award scholarships to students with high academic potential or extraordinary talent. You may even want to ask your employer if there are scholarships available specifically for the children of employees.


One example of a nonprofit-hosted scholarship is the prestigious National Merit Scholarship. In order to qualify, your student must:

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year (or the equivalent year in other educational patterns)
  • Attend a high school, traditional or homeschooled, in the United States, D.C., or a U.S. commonwealth or territory


Not only could scoring well on the PSAT lower the cost of attendance, but it can also help them perform well on the SAT, which can open up other scholarship opportunities.

Local Cost of Living Considerations

Another thing to consider when determining the affordability of a school is the area’s cost of living and the local economy. New Jersey, as a whole, has a higher cost of living index than other states in the country at 132.6, and Princeton’s cost of living index is even higher at 217.8, meaning it’s nearly twice as expensive to live in Princeton than it is in the United States in general.


Princeton requires all students to live on-campus during their first and second years of college, after which they may choose to move off-campus. Many students choose to live on-campus all four years, but for the students who move off-campus they can expect to pay a premium to live in Princeton. Here are the average monthly rents for apartments in Princeton:

  • 1 bedroom: $1,500/month
  • 2 bedroom: $1,890/month
  • 3 bedroom: $2,425/month


Although the rent may seem high, some students find it more affordable to live off-campus if they split the cost with friends. For example, if we add Princeton’s room charge and residential fee and divide it by 12, we find that students are paying about $918 a month for on-campus housing. If they rent a three-bedroom apartment and split it with two friends, they will pay about $808 a month. If your student might consider living off-campus, it’s important to have an informed conversation about how this decision might impact the costs to your family.


According to the Economic Policy Institute, the hourly minimum wage in New Jersey is currently $8.85. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage across all occupations is $20.43. It’s difficult for students to cover the cost of their education with a part-time job, especially if they are enrolled full-time and pursuing extracurricular activities on-campus. However, every little bit helps reduce the net cost to your family.

Wrapping it Up

When it comes to helping your student select and apply for college, there are so many factors to consider. Along with affordability, you’ll want to consider the educational opportunities that schools like Princeton provide for students, and if the school makes sense for your student’s specific goals.


That’s where CollegeVine can help. As a part of our College Applications Program, we help students figure out how to make any school more affordable using our Finances tool, which can show the ROI of different schools and majors and help students identify scholarships to apply for. On average, our students earn about $83,000 in scholarships, which can really help make their academic dreams a reality. Find out if working with our Financial Aid Tools is right for your family!


For more information about Princeton and financial aid, check out these posts:


What Does It Really Take To Get Into Princeton?


Parents: 12 Must-Know College Financial Aid Terms


FAFSA, CSS Profile, IDOC, Oh My: A Guide to Financial Aid


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? 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
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.