You Won't Believe What Tuition at Top Colleges Cost 100 Years Ago

Jillian Knox Finley

Taking a look back into the price points of yore can be a heartbreaking work of staggering envy. With each passing year inflation takes another small bite out of our pocketbooks. If you’re nostalgic for a time when little luxuries like a movie ticket ran you a cool five bucks, consider that 100 years ago some of life’s heftiest price tags were, in fact, entirely free. Say, for example, a Stanford education.

Average take home pay in 1915 was around $689 a year. A year of Ivy League tuition? In the ballpark of $150.

According to a contemporary report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and other sources, below is a list of what some of the country's best and brightest universities charged for tuition in 1915:

  • Harvard: $150/year, compared to $45,278 in 2015/2016
  • MIT: $250/year, compared to $46,704 in 2015/2016
  • New York University: $125/year, compared to $47,750 in 2015/2016
  • Northwestern:  $110/year, compared to $48,624 in 2015/2016
  • Stanford: $0/year, compared to $45,729 in 2015/2016
  • University of Pennsylvania: $150/year, compared to $43,838 in 2015/2016
  • Yale: $160/year, compared to $47,600 in 2015/2016


The statistics get even more real after rates are adjusted for inflation. At $150, a year Harvard would top out around $3,544 in today’s dollars. Take that to your student loan officer.

Go to to see the full list of vintage tuitions. 

Applying to colleges this year? Check out The Princeton Review's latest round up of ranked universities below. 

If you could make one thing in life more affordable? What would it be? 

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