The Cost of Ivy League Schools

I was having a conversation with colleagues the other day on the topic of university tuition and how expensive it is getting in some parts of Canada.  Then it was mentioned that Canadian tuitions pale in comparison to some of the top US schools.  Out of curiosity, off I went to do some research on how much Ivy League Schools really cost.  I did a search on Ivy League Schools, and other well known US universities.


  • Annual Tuition: $38,650
  • Room and Board: $12,630
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $3,384 (insurance only)


  • Annual Tuition: $38,480
  • Room and Board: $14,620
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $4,674


  • Annual Tuition: $41,328
  • Room and Board: $11,808
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $unknown


  • Annual Tuition: $23,664
  • Room and Board: ~$10,000
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $2,400 (insurance only)


  • Annual Tuition: $43,185
  • Room and Board: ~$12,000
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $2,000 (insurance only)

University of Pennsylvania

  • Annual Tuition: $43,738
  • Room and Board: $12,368
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): ~$3,400


  • Annual Tuition: $33,400
  • Room and Board: $12,320
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): ~$3,700


  • Annual Tuition: $40,732
  • Room and Board: $11,775
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $2,763


  • Annual Tuition: $40,050
  • Room and Board: ~$13,000
  • Misc Expenses (books, insurance etc): $3,384 (insurance only)

These numbers are head and shoulders above Canadian schools.  For example, the University of Waterloo, known for their Engineering Program charges $10k in tuition and $2k in fees.  Count for room and board, the cost totals around $20k per year.

While $20k per year is expensive, it’s less than half the price of an US Ivy League school where the cost is about $50k per year (except Columbia).  To put it in context, completing a 4 year undergraduate degree at a top US university will require an investment of at least $200,000.  Here we thought that having a student loan balance of $40k was high, imagine having a student loan the size of an average mortgage!

If you attended post secondary, what University did you attend and how much did you pay in tuition?

I've Completed My Million Dollar Journey. Let Me Guide You Through Yours!

Sign up below to get a copy of our free eBook: Can I Retire Yet?

Posted in


FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

I went to McGill for undergrad and just finished grad school at Harvard. While the “posted” graduate tuition at Harvard is relatively expensive (~$45k per year) nearly everyone there is studying on scholarship, many of which are offered directly from the University. Harvard covered all my tuition and I certainly wasn’t the exception. If you’re accepted they won’t allow money to be a barrier. The University endowment is well over $30b – tuition is merely the icing on their cake. By way of comparison I didn’t get a penny in scholarships to study at McGill or to stay in Canada for grad school…

I think this is a real crisis. I hope to return to Canada as soon as I can, but I look around and many of the brightest Canadian minds are being poached by American grad school and will likely never return home. And we wonder why our national productivity lags…

eric darwin
8 years ago

We are Cdn citizens and residents. Our son applied to some US schools and was accepted at one. Tuition is the same for US and Cdn residents. They basically tax your household based on income/assets. In our case, they accepted him and immediately offered $156,000 in tuition aid. We basically only pay what we had saved in the RESP divided by four, each year, plus travel. The U is very generous with student employment and gives monetary rewards for certain innovations and projects. He made well over $6k from the U over his first year for doing some well-paid work. The real value is having faculties full of nobel lauriates, extraordinarily articulate and sharp people, miles above those in our local U’s, and the networking with other students is invaluable. The difference between the factory-like U our other children went to, our my wife and I went to, is astounding. I am now a fan of the US ivy leagues; and feel they are much easier and more equitable in cost than Cdn U’s. These big ivy leagues have the pick of the best students, and know they are in a competitive market to nab them. In contrast, Waterloo, Queens barely acknowledged our son’s application and offered the standard $3k scholarship. Neither followed up to find out why he didn’t go there, or where he went.

8 years ago

I attended Ryerson University in one of their engineering programs (2002-2006). Tuition was approx $5600 per year (excluding books, room & board). I was very fortunate enough to be accepted into the Canadian Forces under the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) which paid my tuition and books. In addition to having my education completely paid for, I also received a salary which more than covered all of my living expenses. I would certainly recommend this program for anyone that is interested in obtaining a university degree and joining the military. While this does mean obligatory service (approx 5 years after obtaining your degree), it is well worth the experience!

8 years ago

I went to UofToronto, Yale, and the UofCalgary. Canadian universities appear inexpensive (my undergrade was 4k), but they give hardly any scholarships, and most everyone pays the majority of their tuition. In my experience hardly anyone pays those absurd Ivy tuition amounts.

I applied to multiple US schools for grad school, some of which were just bargaining chips for the schools I truly wanted to attend (…”so and so is giving me X$$, so what are you going to give me so I can afford to attend your school…”). Some of the “paying” students somehow seem to compensate for everyone else who isn’t paying.

Bottom line: if someone truly has the ability to attend any Ivy school, then there will be no financial penalty for doing so, ESPECIALLY for a foreigner. US students get loans to cover their tuition, yes. Canadian students receive scholarships instead, quite often close to full, if not even including stipends, or even less than paying Canadian tuition. The Ivy schools want the best. Then, if there is still a spot or two and no more scholarships, they’ll fill it with someone who will pay the whole schbang (my obviously fancy Ivy-League word, haha).

8 years ago

I agree with Dave. You are paying for the higher quality of instruction, and the prestige that will bring you much farther in your career than a degree from a Canadian university. I can’t imagine some of the crappy professors I’ve had at the University of Alberta ever making the cut at an Ivy League school

8 years ago

What is even scarier than the tuition itself is the combination of direct costs and opportunity costs. About ten years ago, after having completed an engineering degree, I decided to go to law school at the University of Toronto. Tuition was $15,000/yr at that time – it has since risen to $22,000. Books were another $1,000 per year. I calculate the total cost of that degree as follows:

Tuition: $45,000
Books: $3,000
Three years out of the labour force: $90,000 (based on a $50,000/yr salary for engineers in training, of which approximately $30,000 would be net)
Missing out on the craziest appreciation in real estate prices in the recent past from 2002 until 2006 (when I had my first permanent position that allowed me to qualify for a mortgage): ca. $150,000.

Minus total income over three years of law school (from summer and part-time-work): $25,000

Total Cost: $263,000, or $87,667/yr.

While I do out-earn a lot of engineers, it is not by that much. I am not convinced that after six years of steady work I have recovered the total cost of almost $300K. This may take until I am ten years out. Furthermore, the out-earning appears to be linked more to long hours and a lot of weekend work compared to many engineers that are more 9-5. The problem is that the costs are worth it in large markets where the sky is the limit for certain professionals – on Bay Street, I was certainly out-earning the engineers of a similar age by a factor of two. However, in smaller markets, where many of us, including myself, return to to set down roots, the differences between what can be earned in a “high-flying” profession (law, investment, etc.) and a more “down-to-earth” profession (engineering, accounting, etc.) is a lot less.

There is no way that at $22,000 a year, I would still have made that decision. Come to think of it, had I understood the concept of opportunity cost and the gamble I was taking more fully, I might have taken the steady paycheque and a more serene life in my early 20s instead.

8 years ago

I studied abroad. My Bachelors in Science was from India at a University that had free education. My Masters in Computer Applications costed me around $50 per year – so as good as free. Books were around $50 per year, room/boarding around $600 per year. That was back in 1994. My wife’s Ph.D. was almost free as well.

I am really grateful for all that. Thanks to that degree, I am successful in life. Well-settled in Canada. I am saving for my kid’s education via RESP. I am not sure where they would like to go to college but yes, I know for sure their RESP won’t be sufficient should they decide to go to college here in Canada or in USA unless the kids turn out to be brilliant and get the scholarships or grants.

8 years ago

I strongly agree with Gerard.

Who cares what the rest of Canada pays in tuition. Or what Americans pay.

In fact, shouldn’t the rest of Canada say why are we paying that much when its cheaper in most of Europe and Quebec?! High tuition is an anglo-saxon cultural choice, not an actual need/must for creating a better society.

8 years ago

@Steve(1), I don’t quite understand why the fact that tuition is higher elsewhere should make Montrealers protesting against their local tuition increases “dumb”. A race to the bottom isn’t a great idea.
@SST, US universities are less likely than Canadian ones to be unionized, so it’s hard to blame the unions for this one. The rise in fees in the California system has a lot more to do with crazy referendum propositions that make it impossible for the state to raise funds.
@FrugalTrader, Memorial’s even cheaper for graduate school… even for foreign students! In addition to a decent government subsidy, the university has a difficult combination of high fixed costs (yes, SST, especially labour :)) and a declining local birthrate. So those extra spots really don’t cost the university much, if anything, so they might as well be used to give non-Newfoundlanders a decent low-cost education. I encourage people to check it out.

8 years ago

I don’t think you should only be looking at the cost of the degree for a true comprison. Compare the median starting salary to the cost and I think that would tell the true story.

If you get a certain type of degree from Harvard or Yale, even with a 200k student loan, you would be set for life. You get to network with the best of the best in America.Your professors are quoted daily in the WSJ, NYT and have been advisors to the President etc. etc. .. not like the ones nobody has every heard of. Also, Ivy League alum tend to be a lot more faithful to each other than the Cdn schools. Take a look at the Boards and leadership, even down to the analyst level, at the i-banks, private equity, etc. Also, if you plan on staying in Canada forever its probably best to pay less and go to a Canadian school. If you want to be involved on a global scale with a multinational, the Ivy League brand power would a lot further. I believe the UofT has good international recognition as well as Schulich, Ivy, Rotman, and Queens B-schools, but the rest no way.

I don’t think you should consider it an apples to apples comparison. It’s not like you have the option of paying 50k or 200k for a GM car, its like paying 50k to get the GM or 200k to get a ferrari that never breaks down or requires maintenance.

Also, there are more scholarship/grant options in the US which are income-tested, so I would be surprised to see anyone but the wealthy paying the full pop. There was a website I encountered I while back that would tell you what your real tuition would be after inputting your income, but I can’t recal the link.