How do you calculate the cost of attendance?

Sticker prices for college seem unreal...

And that's because they are not what you will pay once you're enrolled. When you see the full price colleges publish, it can seem scary. The truth is that the sticker price is a starting point. Institutional aid, federal aid, loans, and outside aid all can reduce your out-of-pocket cost for college significantly. As a matter of fact, 99% of Cornell students receive financial assistance that reduces their overall bill.

What will it cost? The answer to that question is different for everyone based on several factors unique to each situation.  We're here to help you decode what it might mean for you and your family.

First - what are the costs?



Your tuition is the cost you pay for instruction while at Cornell.

This cost can be reduced through Cornell merit scholarships based on academic performance, Cornell stackable scholarships, and grants from Cornell or federal or state aid. You can also use student loans and parent loans to pay your tuition cost. All students who apply to Cornell are automatically considered for merit scholarships based on your application for admission. no extra steps are required. Completing the FAFSA is key to obtaining additional aid from Cornell or federal and state sources.

This cost can increase if you choose to take off-campus study experiences. (You may also apply for course-specific assistance for these experiences once you're enrolled.)



Your room is the cost you pay for campus housing while at Cornell which includes your room rental, all utilities, and access to laundry services and shared spaces within the residence halls including study areas, a game room, exercise space, a test kitchen, and performance stage.

This cost can be reduced by taking on a position as a residence assistant after your first year or applying loans or outside financial aid to your bill.

This cost can increase if your room or building is damaged due to your actions or you request a single room.


meal plan

Your dining plan includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week, plus brunch and dinner on Sunday at the Hilltop Cafe. You have options to use meal credits at Zamora's Market if you're going to miss regular meal service hours.

This cost can be reduced by working as a food service team manager, with some specialized housing options, or applying loans or outside financial aid to your bill.

General Fees

meal plan

Fees cover technology services like campus wi-fi for researching (and streaming your favorite TV shows in your room), building security systems, and resources like the Performing Art and Activities Council that brings events to campus each year.

(Sticker Price)

meal plan

This is where you stop, take a breath, and calculate what financial assistance can be applied to lower this number and get you to your out-of-pocket cost.

Second - how can aid reduce that cost?



Every student admitted to Cornell is considered for merit scholarships based on academic progress and these scholarships are only applicable to your tuition payment. These scholarships range from $18,000-$34,000 per year. (You can get an estimate of your scholarship using our Net Price Calculator.) Merit scholarships automatically renew for up to four years at Cornell if you maintain satisfactory academic performance. Merit scholarships are gift aid you never have to pay it back.



Grants are need-based funding and the amount of grant aid you receive is determined by your completed FAFSA. Federal and State of Iowa (residents only) grants may also be available to you. Grants are gift aid; you never have to pay this money back. Grants may only be applied to tuition payments.



There are several options for taking out loans. Based on your FAFSA you may be eligible for Federal Student Loans. A student or their family members may also choose to take out several types of loans. Loans will be subject to interest accrual, and you do have to pay them back. Most student loans offer deferred payment until you complete your degree (read all the fine print to understand terms.) Loan money can be used to pay any part of your college bill.

Work Study

work study

Based on your FAFSA filing, you may be offered work study aid, which allows you to work a job at Cornell to earn those dollars and have them deposited into your personal bank account. You can apply the money you earn however you wish.

pro tip

Pro tip: how do you know what aid you can expect? Use our Net Price Calculator to get an estimate. Your actual award amounts will be detailed in your Financial Aid Summary. Cornell begins mailing summaries to admitted students in December of the year you apply.

Third - what does Cornell expect you to pay when?

Students and their families can choose from a few options to pay their college bill.

Semester Payment


Pay for each semester in one lump sum. The two equal payments are due in August for fall semester and January for spring semester. You will receive monthly notifications to review your bill for any additional charges you may accrue.

Monthly Payments


Break up your total cost into 10 equal payments over the course of the year. The first payment is due August 1. Each semester you will have the option to renew your commitment to the monthly payment plan or change to the semester payment plan.

What other costs do you need to plan for?



Costs of books will vary based on your course of study. Many books are also available free online or can be borrowed from libraries if you want to save costs.



Travel costs depend on how far home is from Cornell, and how often you plan to travel. You will have many opportunities to leave campus for breaks, or you can explore locally and stay in Mount Vernon.

Personal items


Just like at home, you'll need to have personal hygiene items, comfort items, and laundry soap (no quarters needed for laundry machines though.)



If you want to bring a vehicle and park in a campus lot you'll need a parking pass ($45/year.)


coffee and muffin

Your meal plan gives you access to a full buffet at each meal. If you want snacks inbetween, you'll need to pay for those separately.


movie glasses and popcorn

There are lots of entertaining things going on here on campus, but if you want to go to the movies, or off-campus sporting events or concerts ... plan to pay for those.

Off-campus study

plan and globe

Taking a course off campus can incur extra costs. Scholarships for travels are also available through the off-campus study office.

Athletics gear

gear and equipment

If you participate in our Div III athletics or intramurals you many need to purchase personal gear or equipment.