Navigating Harvard’s Costs: From Sticker Price to Net Price

Harvard University is one of the most prestigious schools in the US and worldwide.

No one can deny that.

Because of this, it’s far more common for many to ask this question about the Ivy League:

  • How much does Harvard cost?
  • Can low-income families afford Harvard?

The cost of attendance (COA) at Harvard for the most recent academic year is $79,450.

Up to 68% of the total cost is tuition, which amounts to $54,269.

Here’s a breakdown of Harvard’s COA:

  • Tuition: $54,269
  • Fees: $4,807
  • Housing: $12,424
  • Food: $7,950

Among four-year private non-profit institutions like Harvard, the average tuition is $38,768, while the average COA is $54,840.

Harvard’s tuition is 40% higher than average, and COA is 45% higher than average.

Please note that the figures given thus far are billed costs.

Harvard undergraduate students also have to take care of unbilled costs, which are expenditures for things that are not included in the official bill each semester or year.

Here are the unbilled costs of attending Harvard (based on the most recent academic year rate):

  • Estimated personal expenses: $2,500
  • Estimated books: $1,000
  • Estimated transportation costs: $4,500

So, how much is it to go to Harvard?

With the unbilled costs considered, Harvard’s COA climbs to $87,450.

Still, many students from low-income backgrounds can afford to go to Harvard because it offers generous amounts of need-based scholarships — 55% of all students receive aid.

Harvard University

Difference Between Sticker Price and Net Price

The cost to go to Harvard can be daunting or reasonable.

It all depends on which amount you look at.

There’s the sticker price and then there’s the net price — the former is the first amount everyone sees, while the latter is the amount everyone gets after doing some arithmetic.

Sticker Price: The Figure Usually Doesn’t Stick Around

A college’s sticker price is also known as the published price.

It’s what you will find on the school’s website or brochure.

It’s also what you will see on its Common Data Set (CDS) report.

Fortunately, most college students do not pay the full sticker price because many of them receive scholarships and grants from the federal government and the academic institutions they are attending.

The Net Price is a More Precise Amount

Simply put, a college’s net price is the COA after subtracting all gift aid and other benefits.

It’s what your family will actually pay.

Colleges and universities rarely publish a net price because it can vary greatly from one student to the next, depending on factors such as the COA, year level, number of credits to enroll, and financial aid eligibility.

In determining your net price, you can use a net price calculator.

Using the Net Price Calculator

You can come across various net price calculators on the internet.

Since you are looking for an answer to the question “how much does it cost to study at Harvard?”, it’s a good idea to use the net price calculator the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research university itself provides.

But be warned: Harvard’s net price calculator is more complicated than most.

However, it’s a good thing since you are likely to get a more accurate figure using it.

You must provide various pieces of information in each of the following categories:

  • Family information
  • Income information
  • Asset information

Is Harvard expensive?

Yes, based on the sticker price alone!

However, the answers of certain students and their families may change after utilizing a net price calculator.

Harvard University

Harvard University Cost by the Numbers

Harvard admits that getting into it can be challenging for many.

But paying for it should not be a problem for those who get in, particularly students from low-income families.

Undergraduates who cannot afford Harvard’s sticker price can benefit the most since 100% of its financial aid awards are need-based — yup, you will not find any merit-based aid at Harvard!

Around 24% of Harvard Students Pay Zero Dollars

Believe it or not, you can attend an expensive school like Harvard University without paying anything.

Harvard evaluates each student’s demonstrated need and ensures that they only pay what they can afford.

For instance, undergraduates whose families make less than $85,000 per year pay nothing.

In the past, Harvard students from households that made below $75,000 per year were expected to pay nothing, but the Ivy League school increased the amount recently.

Meanwhile, families that make between $85,000 and $150,000 per year are likely to contribute anywhere between 0% and 10 percent of their annual incomes.

So, do you qualify for financial aid if your family makes more than $150k annually?

Harvard says that students whose families make over $150,000 per year may still qualify for need-based financial aid. It adds that their expected family contribution is over 10% of the annual income.

As a matter of fact, hundreds of Harvard students from households earning $200,000+ per year still receive financial aid due to extenuating financial circumstances.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that families with significant assets pay more than those without one.

This applies to all households across income levels.

Average Parent Contribution: $13,000

According to Harvard, around 55% of all undergraduate students receive aid in a typical year.

On average, parent contribution among Harvard scholarship recipients amounts to $13,000 per year.

Harvard recommends applying for financial aid at the time of admission.

There are three things to submit:

  • The FAFSA
  • A CSS Profile
  • An IDOC Packet

Like the CSS profile, an IDOC Packet is also a service by the College Board — you won’t be able to access IDOC until you have completed your CSS Profile.

Here’s a typical financial aid package for students with scholarships:

  • Total budget: $80,600
  • Harvard, federal, and outside scholarships: $64,500
  • Student term-time work expectation: $2,750
  • Parent contribution: $13,000
  • Student asset contribution: $350

100% of Demonstrated Need Met

Demonstrated financial need is how much financial assistance a family needs to pay for college.

To compute it, the expected family contribution is subtracted from the COA.

Some colleges and universities offer financial aid packages that take care of only a percentage of the demonstrated need of students — how much demonstrated financial need gets covered depends on the generosity of a school.

Harvard says it meets 100% of a student’s demonstrated need, which means it’s zero cost to attend Harvard for them.

Yes, some students are attending without shelling out any dollars on cost.

However, the answer to the question “how much does it cost to go to Harvard University for four years?” can vary from year to year for undergraduates with full demonstrated financial need taken care of.

That’s because it’s not uncommon for a student’s financial status to change across academic years.

Harvard University cost of attendance per year varies, especially since you have to apply for financial aid every academic year.

But it’s worth noting that Harvard costs less than a public university for over 90% of families.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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