Over the past three decades, the average cost of four-year college tuition at a public institution in the United States has roughly tripled — and that is after adjusting for inflation. Over roughly the same period, college costs have increased at approximately eight times the rate of wages. Here is a year-by-year look at how the cost of college has climbed in recent decades.
Because of the complex web of institutional funding programs, including student aid, grants, work-study, and loans, however, the top-line cost of attending college — the figure the public most commonly sees — is often very different from what students actually pay. And the cost of attending college after tuition discounts still varies considerably by type of institution, family financial status, academic performance in the first year of college, and a range of other factors, including the geographic location of the institution.
To identify the most expensive college in every state, 24/7 Wall St. ranked states based on the average net price — the cost of attendance including tuition and fees, books and supplies, and on-campus room and board less any grant, scholarship, or aid from federal, state, local governmental or institutional sources — for full-time, first-time degree-seeking undergraduates who were awarded financial aid for the 2016-7 school year with data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges that have four-year degree programs but are primarily two-year schools were excluded from consideration.
The most expensive schools in each state often have very little in common and vary a great deal in selectivity and prestige. In smaller states with fewer postsecondary institutions, some of the schools have relatively high acceptance rates. In larger states with more expensive schools, the most expensive school tends to be highly selective. Here is a look at the hardest colleges to get into.