Money

Here's how much it actually costs to attend the top 17 colleges in the US

At many top colleges, the sticker price doesn't tell the whole story. After grants and scholarships are awarded, some of the best schools in the country become much more affordable — even, in many cases, a great deal.

To determine how much it actually costs to attend the top rated colleges in the U.S. per year, CNBC Make It looked at each institution's average net price (ANP) using data from the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. The ANP refers to the total annual cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, books, supplies and living expenses, minus the average amount of financial aid from grants or scholarships.

After factoring in financial aid, the cost of top tier, expensive, private schools drops significantly. Although Princeton University's full tuition runs over $43,000 per year, for example, students end up paying an average of less than $9,000.

Here's a realistic picture of how much it costs to attend the schools U.S. News calls the best universities in America, counting down to No. 1. For comparison's sake, the full price is included as recorded on College Scorecard.

Vanderbilt University

Average net price: $18,144

Full-priced tuition and fees: $44,712
Median salary 10 years since entry: $64,500

General view of the Benson Science Hall on the campus of the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville, Tennessee.
Vanderbilt | Collegiate Images | Getty Images
General view of the Benson Science Hall on the campus of the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rice University

Average net price: $21,024

Full-priced tuition and fees: $42,253
Median salary 10 years since entry: $64,300

Rice University
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Cornell University

Average net price: $29,711

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,116
Median salary 10 years since entry: $73,600

Cornell University.
Kenneth C. Zirkel | Getty Images
Cornell University.

Brown University

Average net price: $27,496

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,346
Median salary 10 years since entry: $63,100

Brown University
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Brown University

Northwestern University

Average net price: $28,155

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,047
Median salary 10 years since entry: $65,900

Robe- and mortar-bedecked students during the graduation at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
John Kely | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Robe- and mortar-bedecked students during the graduation at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Johns Hopkins University

Average net price: $34,455

Full-priced tuition and fees: $48,710
Median salary 10 years since entry: $69,800

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Dartmouth College

Average net price: $29,986

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,506
Median salary 10 years since entry: $70,000

Students walk outside the Collis building on the campus of Dartmouth College, the smallest school in the Ivy League, in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Cheryl Senter | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Students walk outside the Collis building on the campus of Dartmouth College, the smallest school in the Ivy League, in Hanover, New Hampshire.

California Institute of Technology

Average net price: $24,760

Full-priced tuition and fees: $45,390
Median salary 10 years since entry: $74,200

California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena, California.

Duke University

Average net price: $34,137

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,241
Median salary 10 years since entry: $77,900

A general view of the Duke University Chapel and a statue of James Buchanan Duke on the Duke University campus on March 4, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.
Lance King | Getty Images
A general view of the Duke University Chapel and a statue of James Buchanan Duke on the Duke University campus on March 4, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.

University of Pennsylvania

Average net price: $25,225

Full-priced tuition and fees: $49,536
Median salary 10 years since entry: $82,400

University of Pennsylvania
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University of Pennsylvania

Stanford University

Average net price: $13,857

Full-priced tuition and fees: $46,320
Median salary 10 years since entry: $85,700

Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Steve Proehl | Getty Image
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Average net price: $22,968

Full-priced tuition and fees: $46,704
Median salary 10 years since entry: $94,200

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yiming Chen | Moment Mobile | Getty Images
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Columbia University

Average net price: $21,031

Full-priced tuition and fees: $53,00
Median salary 10 years since entry: $78,200

The campus of Columbia University in New York City
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The campus of Columbia University in New York City

Yale University

Average net price: $20,910

Full-priced tuition and fees: $47,600
Median salary 10 years since entry: $83,200

Yale University campus, New Haven, CT
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Yale University campus, New Haven, CT

University of Chicago

Average net price: $25,883

Full-priced tuition and fees: $51,351
Median salary 10 years since entry: $65,500

University of Chicago campus
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University of Chicago campus

Harvard University

Average net price: $17,882

Full-priced tuition and fees: $45,278
Median salary 10 years since entry: $90,900

Harvard University students
Michael Fein/Bloomberg | Getty Images
Harvard University students

Princeton University

Average net price: $8,848

Full-priced tuition and fees: $43,450
Median salary 10 years since entry: $80,500

People walk on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, New Jersey.
Craig Warga | Bloomberg via Getty Images
People walk on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, New Jersey.