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Which Ivy League School Is the Cheapest?

The Ivy League often feels out of reach for college hopefuls. However, what many students might not realize is that the eight Ivy League schools have financial aid policies designed to help applicants from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds afford college and graduate with as little debt as possible. 

So how expensive is an Ivy League education in 2023? Are some schools cheaper than others? What factors might affect how much you pay? We’ll break it all down for you right now!

Quick Financial Aid Facts

Most colleges practice either need-blind or need-aware acceptance. A need-blind school accepts applicants regardless of their ability to pay the cost of attendance, while a need-aware school may deny applicants who will not be able to pay. We will explain which of the Ivy League schools falls into each of these categories.

Keep in mind that the numbers we’ll be exploring in this article are the 2023/2024 sticker prices for each university, meaning they include both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include billed expenses like tuition, housing, food, etc. while indirect costs represent unbilled expenses such as travel and books. Indirect costs often vary from student to student, so the numbers discussed here are an estimate of the total cost of attendance for each school.

It’s also important to note that students who live off-campus or with family during the semester may have a slightly lower cost of attendance based on the difference in or lack of housing fees. 

Without further ado, let’s find out which Ivy League schools are the most inexpensive and why!

Cornell University, $66,834 – $88,150

Cornell University is a unique case. Unlike other Ivies, the cost of attendance at Cornell accounts for in-state and out-of-state residence depending on which of its eight undergraduate colleges and schools you choose. The total cost for endowed colleges is the same as the cost for those living outside of New York attending one of the state contract schools: $88,150. On the other hand, New York residents can attend state contract schools at the total cost of $66,834, which is by far the cheapest sticker price out of all the Ivy League schools.

Cornell’s state contract schools include the following:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Though Cornell is need-aware for international applicants, it is need-blind for domestic applicants. The university meets 100% of demonstrated financial need without loans for all admitted students who reside within a certain income threshold: total income less than $60,000 and total assets below $100,000. 

To figure out your unique cost of attendance, check out the Cornell University Financial Aid Calculator.

Harvard College, $82,950 – $87,450

The range in Harvard’s sticker price is a result of the unbilled costs estimate. Allowing up to $4,500 for transportation expenses, the upward edge of the range reaches $87,450, but the bare price of attendance without factoring in unbilled costs like books and personal expenses is $79,450. Depending on your own personal needs, you may find Harvard more or less expensive than later schools on our list.

Harvard is need-blind for both domestic and international applicants. On a mission to make itself affordable for every student who gets in, the college also meets full demonstrated financial need without loans for all admitted students. According to their financial aid website, the expected family contribution is typically between 0 to 10 percent of family income.

Visit the Harvard College Net Price Calculator to receive a personalized estimate of your financial aid package.

Princeton University, $83,140

Princeton University is well-known for its generous financial aid awards. According to the financial aid page of their website, students in the Class of 2026 received an average of $62,635 in grants. Need-blind for all applicants, the university’s newest no-loan methodology for grants covers full tuition, room, board, books, and personal expenses for most families with an income below $100,000.

Princeton also offers a variety of payment plans to accommodate the needs of students:

  • One payment per semester.
  • Ten monthly payments.
  • Princeton Parent Loan (PPL).
  • Direct PLUS Loan.

You can access Princeton University’s Financial Aid Estimator here.

Columbia University, $85,967

Columbia University also boasts that many incoming students can expect to attend all four years of undergraduate without incurring any debt. The average amount awarded in grants is $63,971 with almost 50% of students receiving financial aid from the school. Though need-aware for international applicants, Columbia is need-blind for all domestic applicants and meets full demonstrated financial need without loans for all first year students.

To learn more about financial aid at Columbia University, check out the school’s Cost of Attendance Policies.

Brown University, $87,648

In accordance with the Brown Promise, this university has eliminated packaged loans from all financial aid awards, making Brown a no-loan school. Brown meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for incoming students, with 43% of the Class of 2023 receiving grants. Students from families making less than $60,000 in annual income can expect a $0 parent contribution alongside a work opportunity to help cover the student contribution.

You can find various tools to help you calculate your financial aid and bill estimates at Brown University here.

Yale University, $87,705

Like Brown, Yale offers a no-loan financial aid policy that covers 100% of the demonstrated financial need for incoming students. The expected family contribution will be divided between parents and students, but many undergraduates are able to contribute their “Student Share” by working during the term or summer or through a merit-based scholarship offered by sources outside the university. The school is unique for being one of only a few Ivies that practices need-blind acceptance for both domestic and international students.

Yale offers two tools for calculating financial aid, both found here, the first of which provides a ballpark estimate while the second tool uses your financial information to generate a much more detailed estimate.

Dartmouth College, $87,793

Dartmouth’s average need-based scholarship was at a record high for the Class of 2026, coming in at $66,818. According to the university’s website, Dartmouth students typically graduate with some of the lowest levels of student debt in the country. Dartmouth is need-blind only for domestic students, but the school does meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all accepted students via a combination of scholarships and student work.

Families with an income below $65,000 will have a $0 parent contribution while the Dartmouth Scholarship covers full tuition for all students from families with total incomes of $125,000 or less. Access the Net Price and Quick Cost Calculators here.

University of Pennsylvania, $89,028

UPenn is another Ivy League School dedicated to helping students graduate debt-free if possible. The university is no-loan, meeting the full demonstrated financial need of incoming students via a combination of federal grants, Penn scholarships, and work study funding. Admissions for domestic students and those applying from Canada or Mexico are performed on a need-blind basis. However, all other international applications are reviewed under need-aware admission requirements.

Students from families with less than $65,000 in income will receive coverage for tuition, fees, room, and board and may also be eligible for laptop or summer opportunity funding. Family incomes that range between $65,500 and $140,000 will receive coverage for at least tuition. Estimate your financial aid package at UPenn here.

If you’ve always dreamed of an Ivy League education, don’t give up yet. It might be more affordable than you think!

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

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