Special Report

What It Costs to Attend America’s Best Private Colleges

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The necessity of earning a four-year degree has propelled many students and their parents into massive debt. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average bill for Annual undergraduate tuition: at private colleges it ranked factored out to $38,185 for the 2021-22 academic year. In comparison, average Annual undergraduate tuition: at public schools for in-state students was a much lower $10,338. (Compare the cost of college the year you were born.)

To foot that bill, the majority of students and their families take out loans. The research group EducationData.org estimates that the average outstanding loan amount currently stands at $37,693 per student. Federal student loan debt per borrower averages $36,510, while the average for a private student loan amounts to $54,921 per borrower. 

Given those prices, it’s no wonder parents and students get a severe case of sticker shock when deciding where to attend college. A survey by Fidelity Investments revealed one in four parents of high schoolers and 38% of students mistakenly believe yearly tuition will be $5,000 or less.reTo determine the best private colleges that cost the least, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed an analysis by the digital marketing agency Higher Visibility of the reported annual undergraduate tuition at America’s 20 highest-rated private colleges as ranked by the school data platform Niche. Higher Visibility drew its tuition data from the college cost data site CollegeCalc, which in turn extrapolated data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics site. Note that tuition doesn’t include other required fees, nor the cost of books and materials or room and board, so the actual cost of attending these institutions will be higher in all cases.

Click here to see what it costs to attend America’s best private colleges

Yet as with any investment, parents and students weigh the cost versus the long-term benefits – in this case the fact that having a degree from a prestigious private university means better job prospects. Consequently, the price of the colleges on this list — which include several Ivy League institutions — will most likely justify the expense. And if the average tuition at a private college is $38,185, then the $47,730 tariff at Harvard could be viewed as a relative bargain. That is, of course, if your child is accepted to Harvard. (These are the hardest colleges to get into.)

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20. Columbia University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $58,920
> Best college ranking: #11
> Location: New York, NY

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19. University of Chicago
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $57,642
> Best college ranking: #15
> Location: Chicago, IL

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18. University of Southern California
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $57,256
> Best college ranking: #16
> Location: Los Angeles, CA

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17. Brown University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $57,112
> Best college ranking: #8
> Location: Providence, RI

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16. Cornell University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $56,550
> Best college ranking: #17
> Location: Ithaca, NY

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15. Northwestern University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $56,232
> Best college ranking: #14
> Location: Evanston, IL

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14. Duke University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $55,880
> Best college ranking: #6
> Location: Durham, NC

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13. Dartmouth College
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $55,605
> Best college ranking: #10
> Location: Hanover, NH

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12. Yale University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $55,500
> Best college ranking: #4
> Location: New Haven, CT

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11. University of Notre Dame
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $55,046
> Best college ranking: #19
> Location: Notre Dame, IN

10. Pomona College
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $54,380
> Best college ranking: #18
> Location: Claremont, CA

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9. Washington University in St Louis
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $54,250
> Best college ranking: #12
> Location: St. Louis, MO

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8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $53,450
> Best college ranking: #1
> Location: Cambridge, MA

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7. Stanford University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $52,857
> Best college ranking: #3
> Location: Stanford, CA

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6. California Institute of Technology
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $52,506
> Best college ranking: #20
> Location: Pasadena, CA

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5. Princeton University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $51,870
> Best college ranking: #5
> Location: Princeton, NJ

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4. University of Pennsylvania
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $51,156
> Best college ranking: #9
> Location: Philadelphia, PA

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3. Vanderbilt University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $50,800
> Best college ranking: #13
> Location: Nashville, TN

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2. Rice University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $48,330
> Best college ranking: #7
> Location: Houston, TX

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1. Harvard University
> Annual undergraduate tuition: $47,730
> Best college ranking: #2
> Location: Cambridge, MA

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