You probably already know that in the Ivy League financial aid is all need-based, there are no merit or athletic scholarships. But what you may not realize is that your need-based financial aid award can vary by tens of thousand of dollars depending on the school.
Hypothetical Ivy League Financial Aid Awards
I made up a fictitious upper middle-class family and ran the numbers on the financial aid calculators at the various Ivy League schools. Here’s the scoop on our family with Ivy League aspirations:
- Married with 2 kids, oldest starting college and younger sibling is 15
- The live in a $400,000 home in Virginia and have $80,000 in equity
- Both parents work, earn a combined income of 150K and earned 5K in interest income last year. They had an adjusted gross income of 135K and paid 26K in Federal taxes.
- They contributed 15K to their 401K last year (warning: your retirement contributions are usually added back in when calculating financial aid!)
- They have 10K in cash and 80K in non-retirement investments
- The prospective student has 5000 in savings and earned 2500 last year. Sorry kid, no trust fund.
- No other real estate, businesses or farms
- I named them ‘The Smithers’
I entered their info into the various calculators and came up with some very interesting outcomes. A couple of things to keep in mind, I took one, hypothetical situation. Unless, by some freakish coincidence, your numbers exactly match those I entered – you will likely have a different result.
Princeton’s financial aid calculator was the most generous of the Ivy League financial aid calculators for the Smithers family. With a grant award of $29,830 toward Princeton’s $57,010 cost of attendance, it would cost the Smithers family $27,180 each year for their oldest daughter to attend Princeton.
The Yale calculator gave a total cost of attendance for 2013 of $58,950. It awarded the Smithers $30,659., leaving them responsible for $28,291. each year. (All of the schools had some sort of student work component available to help defray the remaining costs – usually about 4000 per year)
The Harvard calculator was not quite as detailed as the rest. but it was quicker and easier to use. After entering the data, it spit out an award of $28,800 toward the $58,300 cost of attendance. The resulting cost to the family was $29,500.
In general, the substantial endowments at Harvard, Yale and Princeton make them the heavy hitters of Ivy League financial aid. The awards at the remaining schools may look smaller by comparison, but remember – there are very few colleges in the world that would provide any need-based money at all to a family like the Smithers.
I plugged the Smither’s numbers in the Penn financial aid calculator and found that Penn could come up with a grant of $21,700 toward the $59,750 cost of attendance. That left an annual cost of $38,050.
Columbia’s online calculator returned a grant of $18,281 toward the $59,396 cost of attendance. The resulting annual cost for the Smither’s kid to go to Columbia was going to be $41,115.
The Cornell Calculator gave a grant of $16,578. toward the $59,926 cost of attendance. Annual cost for the Smithers kid to attend Cornell: $43,348.
Ivy League financial aid, in general, is exceptionally generous. But running the numbers for our fictitious upper middle class family on the Brown calculator looks like they might have to tighten their belts a little to make it work. The cost of attendance for 2013 is $56,550 and the expected grant was $9960., leaving an annual cost of $46,590.
The Dartmouth calculator gave the Smithers family a grant of $15,655, but Dartmouth also had the highest annual cost of attendance in the Ivy League at $62,400 for 2013. That left $46,745 for the family to pay each year.
Ivy League Financial Aid Analysis
The annual cost difference between attending Harvard, Yale or Princeton and attending Dartmouth or Brown is about $18,000. for the Smithers family (any resemblance to a real family is purely coincidental). Multiply that by 4 years and they are looking at a $72,000 difference over the course of their daughter’s undergrad education.
Now, if you are in love with Dartmouth (and there’s a lot to love about it) but find yourself in that doughnut hole of college financing where you earn too much to get a big grant, but you can’t swing 45K per year, there is hope. These numbers are not written in stone.
If you can get a financial aid offer from one of the big 3 (HYP), you may have some success getting other schools in the Ivy League to compete and match those offers. I’m already running long here, but here’s a great article on schools matching offers for athletic recruiting in the Ivy League.