This guide is designed to answer one question for you: How are you going to afford Harvard University?
You probably know that planning for expenses is an important part of the college application process. What you may not know is how many different things you need to keep track of to pay tuition and apply for financial aid.
Here's what we'll cover:
- How much does Harvard tuition cost?
- How much financial aid do students at Harvard usually get?
- How much debt is typical for students at Harvard?
- How much will Harvard cost YOU, and can you actually afford it?
- Is Harvard a good value for you?
- What are other schools that might be a better value than Harvard?
By learning more about expenses and aid, you’re already on the right path to managing college costs. Let’s get started!
School location: Cambridge, MA
This school is also known as: Harvard University, Harvard University, Harvard College
How Much Does Harvard Cost?
Knowing what a school costs is Step #1 in managing college costs. There’s more to think about than just the tuition—you also have to factor in where you'll live, what you'll eat, and more while attending Harvard University.
The "Cost of Attendance" is the total amount of money the average student has to pay, WITHOUT any financial aid, to attend a particular school. Think of it as a school’s sticker price. It includes not just Harvard tuition and fees, but also room, board, textbooks, and personal expenses.
Here’s the Cost of Attendance breakdown for Harvard:
- Tuition and Fees $42292 $42292
- Room $8667
- Board $5448
- Textbooks $1000
- Other Expenses $2543
Typical Total Cost for On-Campus Students Typical Total Cost for On-Campus Students $59950 $59950
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How Much Financial Aid Do Students at Harvard Get?
The Cost of Attendance listed above might be intimidating. The good news is that most students don’t end up paying that full price to attend Harvard. Financial aid helps make up the difference between the Cost of Attendance and what families can actually afford.
Here we'll cover how many students get Harvard financial aid, what types of aid they get, and how much.
A Brief Intro to Financial Aid
Aid comes in many forms, including:
- Need-based grants
- Merit-based scholarships
- Student loans
This financial aid comes from a few different places:
- Federal aid comes from the federal government, or is subsidized by the federal government.
- Institutional aid comes from your school itself.
Generally, it’s better for MORE students to receive HIGH amounts of financial aid—this means students pay less for college.
Let’s take a look at how Harvard compares to other schools.
Let's start with the overall numbers. At Harvard, we know that:
75% of Students Get ANY Aid
This is 17% LOWER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 92%.
This could be bad news - fewer students getting aid could mean students are paying more at Harvard than they would at other similar schools. It could also mean students attending Harvard are wealthier and need less aid.
To break this apart, we'll next look at each type of aid and how much students get from each.
Grants and Scholarships
We’re focusing on grants and scholarships first because they’re the most important forms of financial aid. Grants and scholarships are better than loans because students don’t ever have to pay them back. The more grant/scholarship aid students receive at a particular school, the better off those students are in the long run.
At Harvard University, we know that:
58% Get ANY Grant Money
This is 31% LOWER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 89%.
Although it’s useful to know how many students get grant aid, it’s also important to know how much grant aid people tend to receive. The bigger the average grant award, the better.
So how much grant money do students at Harvard tend to receive?
Average Grant Award: $41505
This is $25017 HIGHER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is $16488.
Altogether, this is mixed news - at Harvard, FEWER students get aid, but the ones who do get MORE than average. If you qualify for aid, this can work out well, since you'll get a sizable award. But it might be harder for you to qualify for Harvard financial aid.
How Generous is Harvard’s Financial Aid?
The grant dollar amounts we’ve seen so far have included aid from all sources - both federal and institutional. Schools don’t have much control over how much federal aid students can qualify for (like Pell Grants), but they do their own financial aid dollars and how they’re used.
To figure out how strong Harvard’s own financial aid program is, we’ll look at how they award their own (non-federal) financial aid dollars. The more students receive aid directly from the school (otherwise known as institutional aid), and the bigger the award amounts, the better the financial aid program.
Let’s see how generous Harvard University is with its students:
58% Get ANY School Grants
This is 24% LOWER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 82%.
Because Harvard gives a smaller percentage of its students institutional grants than similar schools, it may offer less competitive financial aid.
Some schools may claim to offer large amounts of aid to prospective students without advertising that much of this money may come in the form of student loans - money that you have to pay back. To figure out if this is the case, check out our following section on student loan debt at Harvard.
The amount of money that students actually get is just as important (if not more important) than the percent of students who get grants. If you receive a grant, you’ll want it to be big enough to do you some good.
Average School Grant: $39842
This is $26043 HIGHER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is $13799.
Right away, it seems like Harvard University offers more institutional aid than other schools. On the surface, this can mean that students who do receive institutional grants get a competitive amount, compared to other schools.
On the other hand, this can also mean that the school just costs more than the typical school of its type. If Harvard costs more, it makes sense for the average grant award to be higher.
Up to this point, we've looked entirely at grants for Harvard. Next, we'll do the same analysis for student loans, which is where student debt comes from.
How Much Debt is Typical for Students at Harvard?
Aside from grants, the other major way to pay for college is with student loans. Student loans aren’t free sums of money - you borrow a certain amount to attend Harvard, and then pay it back with smaller monthly payments after you graduate.
The more student loan money you borrow, the more debt you’ll end up with after graduation. Ideally, you want to minimize your student debt as much as possible. Less debt means less of a financial burden once you leave school.
It’s generally a bad sign if a school has many students taking out a lot of loans. This indicates that graduates have to worry about paying back big sums of money once they leave school.
To address the amount and type of debt that students take on, this section will cover:
- Loan Overview
- Federal Loans
- Other Loans
Let’s see what students at Harvard have to deal with:
First, let’s talk about how many students at Harvard actually have to take out any student loans at all. The ideal goal is to graduate with little to no debt.
It’s very common for college grads in the US to graduate with some debt, but high percentages of students taking on loans at a particular school is a big red flag. In contrast, low percentages of students with loans is a sign that Harvard tuition is affordable.
So how many students actually end up taking out loans at Harvard?
9% Have ANY Loans
This is 57% lower than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 66%.
It's a great sign that the loan percentage is so low at Harvard - in fact, Harvard is in the top 10% of schools in terms of how many students have to take out loans. This usually means the school has a strong financial aid program, and grants are enough to pay for the cost of college.
Chances are, if you attend Harvard, you won't have to take out loans yourself, which means you won't graduate with student debt.
Next, we'll look at exactly HOW much debt the average person takes out while in school.
Now that you have a handle on the basic loan information for Harvard, we’ll get into some more nitty-gritty information on the types and amounts of loans that students typically have.
We’ll start with federal loans because, in general, federal loans are preferable to private loans. Federal loans tend to have low interest rates, which means they cost less in the long run. They may come with other perks (like subsidization or even options for loan forgiveness).
High percentages or amounts of federal loans still isn’t a great sign - again, you don’t want to see students burdened with too much debt. Generally, schools with strong financial aid programs will have students with more federal loans than private loans.
Let’s see how Harvard stacks up:
3% Have Federal Loans
At Harvard University, 3% of all students take out federal loans. This is 62% LOWER than the average percent of students for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 65%.
Average Federal Loan: $4028
At Harvard, the average annual federal loan amount is $4028. This amount is $2049 LESS than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is $6077.
Other Private Loans
Other loans, or private loans, are the last resource students turn to when paying for college. They’re the least preferable form of financial aid because they have higher interest rates and cost students the most money in the long run.
Generally, the fewer students who take private loans, and the lower the amount of the loan, the more affordable Harvard is.
Let’s take a look at the percentage of students at Harvard with non-federal loans:
8% Have Private Loans
At Harvard University, 8% of students take out private loans. This is 1% LOWER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is 9%
Just as important as the percentage of students with private loans is the average loan amount. The smaller the average loan amount, the better:
Average Private Loan: $5908
The average private loan amount at Harvard is $5908. This is $5536 LOWER than the average for Private not-for-profit schools, which is $11444.
The percentage of students getting federal loans is greater than those getting private loans, which is a good sign. This means lower-interest federal loans are usually enough to pay for Harvard.
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What Would It Cost YOU to Attend Harvard?
Finally, we get to the bottom line: what will Harvard actually cost YOU? Every family has a different situation, and depending on your income level, you'll have to pay more or less to go to college.
What is Net Price, and Why Does it Matter?
Above, we've covered Harvard's Cost of Attendance (tuition, room and board, books, and more). We also covered its typical financial aid in grants, loans, and scholarships.
The Net Price is the total cost minus the total aid given. In other words, this is the price you have to pay to the school out of pocket. The lower the school's cost, and the more aid you get, the lower the Net Price.
We'll cover two ways to get your Net Price for Harvard - the fast way, and the precise way.
Net Price: The Quick and Easy Way
If you want a quick, general idea of your annual Net Price at Harvard, here's a handy chart showing the net price of real students. All you need is your family income.
|If your family makes between...||Your Net Price will likely be around...|
|$0 - $30,000||$3897|
|$30,001 - $48,000||$2977|
|$48,001 - $75,000||$5405|
|$75,001 - $110,000||$13604|
|$110,000 and up||$36946|
Note that these values may be a few years old, and today's prices may be a bit higher.
As we'll discuss next, your exact Net Price will depend on other factors like the number of family members and total assets, but this represents the typical Net Price.
Net Price: The Most Accurate Method
Most schools have an updated Net Price calculator available. To find it, just google "Harvard Net Price Calculator" - the official tool should be one of the top search results.
Often the school will ask for more information than just income:
- The number of people in your household
- The number of family members in college
- Parental wages, income, and assets
- Student wages, income, and assets
This will take 10-15 minutes to complete, and you'll get a specific net price that's more accurate than the table above.
Can You Afford to Attend Harvard?
Once you have a Net Price estimate, you’ll want to figure out whether your family can afford to pay Harvard tuition and costs. Once again, the Net Price is the total cost of attending, minus the aid you can expect to get (grants and scholarships). It's the amount you'd have to cover yourself.
The US government has come up with a standardized way to calculate how much a typical family can afford to pay without help. They call this the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.
As an example, a family that brings home $80,000 in income before taxes, with no assets and no other children in college, has an EFC of around $7,000. This is the amount the government thinks that family can reasonably pay, and the school will have to step in and cover the rest.
Colleges use this number as a guideline to decide how much aid to give you, but it's just a guideline. Some schools will be stingier with aid, and you'll have to pay more than the government's suggested EFC.
So we're going to calculate your EFC and compare it to Harvard's Net Price. If the Net Price is higher than the EFC, the school will cost more than you can typically afford. It's a simple equation:
Net Price - Expected Family Contribution = Deficit (extra cost you would need to cover)
We've constructed a simple tool to figure out whether Harvard is affordable for you:
This tool will calculate your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. In order to calculate this amount, we need just 4 pieces of information from you. We won't save this data.
Finally: Is This Price Really Worth It?
Chances are, college won't be cheap. Even if you have a few top choice schools in mind like Harvard, it's still useful to explore broadly.
A few questions to ponder:
- How much better off will you be if you attend Harvard as opposed to a similar, but cheaper, school?
- Have you considered a range of private and public schools? Big and small?
- What if you didn't attend college at all? (This is extreme, but just worth considering even for a second.
Here's our take: college will be a really important stage in your development. Going to a better, more reputable college will usually pay off in the long run. By going to a better college, you'll be surrounded by a more interesting community, find it easier to land a job, and open up opportunities.
To determine the value of Harvard, we're going to rely on reputable ranking lists. These consider factors like reputation, student selectivity, income after graduating, and more to determine the value of a school.
So how does Harvard stack up?
Top Of The Line
Based on its ranking and cost, Harvard University is in the very top category of high-value schools.
First and foremost, Harvard is already one of the best colleges in the nation, and often this means world-class opportunities that are well worth the cost. If you graduate from this school, you'll find yourself very competitive in your career.
But beyond this, Harvard has a best-in-class financial aid program. To support lower income students, top schools like Harvard provide substantial need-based grants, sometimes reducing the cost of college to nearly zero.
When you combine world-class reputation with great financial aid, you get an extremely high-value school like Harvard University. If you can get in, the experience can be life changing.
How Do You Get In?
Given how strong Harvard is, it can be tough to get in. You'll need excellent grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to stand out.
Since you're aiming for one of the top schools, you might be interested in our popular guide, How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League, by our founder and Harvard alum Allen Cheng. You'll get an inside look on what schools like Harvard are looking for and how you can build an amazing application.
How do you compare to other students accepted to Harvard? Check out our Admissions Guide to Harvard.
What Other Schools Should You Consider?
Your next step should be to get a better idea of costs and aid availability at similar schools. If you’re interested in Harvard, you should check out some other high-value schools that could give you more bang for your buck. Get started here to check both in-state and out-of-state schools that might provide a better value.
Better Value Schools
Finally, we're going to look at schools that might offer a better value than Harvard University. To compile this list, we first find schools at similar academic levels, so you have a similar chance at getting in. Then we select schools that better value for you, by being more affordable or having a higher quality of education
It’s hard to know exactly what schools will be a great value for you without information on your family income. Enter your family income here for the best recommendations for schools:
There are a lot of potential financial benefits that come with attending a school close to home. For example, in-state public schools tend to have subsidized tuitions for state residents. Students may also have the chance to save money if they choose to stay at home.
If you’re looking for good deals on schools in your state, you should start by checking out the following colleges and universities:
|Amherst College||Amherst, MA||1480||33||4.07|
|Mount Holyoke College||South Hadley, MA||1400||31||3.81|
You can still get a good value on your education if you choose to attend an out-of-state school, especially if you qualify for generous financial aid.
If you’re interested in getting an education out-of-state, start by checking out the following colleges and universities:
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||1505||34||3.96|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||1500||34||3.9|
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||1505||34||3.96|
|Grinnell College||Grinnell, IA||1460||32||4.03|
|University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||1430||32||4.32|
|Washington and Lee University||Lexington, VA||1420||32||3.96|
|University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||1435||33||3.88|
|Bowdoin College||Brunswick, ME||1405||32||3.93|
How would your chances at getting into Harvard University improve with a better score?
Now that we've figured out whether you can afford Harvard, we need to focus on getting you in. A big part of this is your SAT/ACT score.
A 160 point increase in your SAT score, or a 4 point increase in your ACT score, makes a HUGE improvement in your chances of getting into Harvard.
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