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.