The dream of one day getting a letter inviting us to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry doesn't fade away in adulthood. We can still hope of attending Transfiguration classes and verbally sparring with our Potions professor, yes?
If that's still the dream, the price tag is one hell of a wake-up call.
The idea of money is not particularly present in the Harry Potter series, largely because Harry himself has a near-infinite amount of it (he inherited a fortune from his parents). Any real concerns about financial status, usually examined through the Weasley family, get dismissed rather quickly. But with seven kids having gone through Hogwarts, the Weasleys were paying a small fortune.
Exactly how much money would it cost to attend Hogwarts in American dollars? Thanks to J.K. Rowling, Pottermore and the Internet at large, we can figure out how much Muggle money you'll be spending on your first year learning how to cast spells and look cute in a wizard's hat. The answer: about $43,301 USD per year.
Rowling once said one Galleon converts to "about five pounds." Thanks to some sharp work by the team over at the Harry Potter fan wiki, we know that, converted to American currency, a Galleon would value at approximately seven dollars, and that will be our primary measurement.
The hardest thing to figure out is tuition. Some insist tuition at Hogwarts is free, though the books are unclear either way. For the sake of this exercise, we'll say that tuition must cost something. Multiple figures place the price around $42,000; we'll take that number at face value.
A first-year Hogwarts student is given a supply list for what to buy in Diagon Alley. Thanks to prices primarily found on Pottermore, Rowling's expansion of the Potter universe, we can calculate the price of each individual item.
Some are easy finds, like the price of Harry's wand (seven galleons, $42) and a cauldron (15 galleons, $105). Others are cheap gets, like the $21 brass scales and glass phials (each 3 galleons), or the $35 telescope (5 galleons).
For the books, we have to use Pottermore's inventory listing, calculating a first-year's reading list to 13 galleons, or $91. There's no reliable data about clothing, so we'll use a Visually estimate based on comparable items on Amazon to price it at $576. Finally, while other owls' prices are listed on Pottermore, Harry's rare snowy owl isn't priced. Judging by the fact that it seems quite a bit rarer than the 10- and 15-galleon birds, we'll estimate it at 20 galleons, or $140.
Combined with the $42,000 tuition estimate, the total cost to attend Hogwarts as a first-year comes to $43,031. That's quite a bit of cash for the Weasleys to have spent seven times over. Even for someone like Hermione Granger, whose parents were dentists, $43,000 a year is a hefty number, placing Hogwarts among the 50 most expensive schools in the United States.
We have to assume that if Hogwarts does charge tuition, it offers some kind of financial aid to let all these students attend. Maybe a special program for Muggles to attend, or a legacy rate for the Weasleys? Without it, wizards-in-training and their parents would be left shouting "Accio scholarship."
Update: Friday, July 17, 2015, 4:54 p.m. We reported this story with no textual confirmation one way or the other as far as tuition costs at Hogwarts. Fortunately, J.K. Rowling was able to clear the matter up for us. Hogwarts tuition is free. Read more about it here.