According to the College Board's 2018 Trends in College Pricing Report, from 1988 to 2018, tuition prices tripled at public four-year schools and doubled at public two-year and private non-profit four-year schools.
But tuition rates and published sticker prices are not entirely indicative of the cost of college today. During the 2018-2019 school year, the reported tuition at private non-profit four-year schools was an average $35,830. But in reality, many students end up paying far less after grants and scholarships are factored in. The average net price of tuition and fees in 2019 is $14,610.
At Cornell University, many students end up paying less than the published tuition price — some significantly so. For the 2019-2020 academic year, undergraduate tuition for New York residents studying agriculture and life sciences, human ecology or industrial and labor relations is $37,880 per year, while tuition for students from other states and studying other subjects is $56,500.
Cornell estimates that other costs include $9,152 for housing, $6,094 for dining, $1,850 for miscellaneous expenses, $970 for books and supplies, a $438 health fee and a $234 student activity fee — bringing the total cost of attendance to $69,144 per year for most students and $50,524 for those local students with reduced tuition.
But how much students are actually expected to pay is dependent on factors like income, scholarships and grants, making cost calculations even more complex.
Cornell's financial aid website guarantees that families with total incomes under $60,000 and total assets less than $100,000 (including home equity) are not expected to contribute toward the cost of attending Cornell, and students are not expected to take on loans.
The amount of debt students are expected to take on increases after this income threshold.
The average debt among Cornell students who do take on loans is about $24,000.
The school states that during the 2016-2017 academic year, 52% of Cornell's 14,907 full-time undergraduate students students received some kind of financial aid, 44% received Cornell grant aid and about 16% received Pell Grants.
The average grant amount given to first-year students in the Class of 2021 was $40,686.
According to The New York Times, the median family income of a student from Cornell is $151,600. Roughly 64% of Cornell students come from the highest-earning 20% of American households. About 10% come from the highest-earning 1% of American households.
The New York Times also credits Cornell for having above-average mobility for students. When comparing the eight Ivy League colleges, Cornell is the most likely to help students move up two or more income quintiles.
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