The Project on Student Debt has put together an analysis of what a typical family with different income levels would have to pay at many of the colleges that have revised their financial aid packages in the past year. This analysis reviews the colleges that have pledged to improve their aid and then examines what a family at different income levels would pay at each college. For example, a family making $60,000 a year with typical assets would pay $13,800 at a University of California school, $11,306 at Amherst, and only $4,000 at Harvard.
This document makes it very easy to compare many of the highly selective colleges that a student might be considering to determine where they might get the best financial aid package, assuming acceptance. Of course, as I have said many times before, cost is not the only factor in choosing a college. But for many families it is an important factor. However, given the current difficulties with acceptance to many of these colleges, one needs to evaluate their reasonable chances of acceptance into a particular college and not focus entirely on the cost. While Harvard might be the cheapest choice for a student from a family earning $60,000 a year, with an acceptance rate below 8%, I would never recommend that a family count on acceptance.