Let’s face it, college is expensive. Making the decision to attend college can be one that comes with countless benefits – education, lifelong friends and connections, job opportunities – but it has also become an increasingly expensive undertaking. While there are many cheaper higher education institutions nationwide, there is also no shortage of very expensive colleges across America.
To determine the most expensive college in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on average annual net price from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges and universities were ranked based on average annual net price — the annual cost of tuition, books, room and board, minus any financial aid — for full-time, first-time degree-seeking undergraduate students who received grant or scholarship aid in the 2020-21 school year. Only public and private nonprofit schools that predominantly grant bachelor’s degrees and had at least 800 undergraduates enrolled in fall 2021 were considered.
The price of attending college has increased over the years, and by quite a bit. In fact, the rising costs of tuition have outpaced the rate of inflation by 171.5%. Private institutions tend to be far more expensive than public schools, and according to the Education Data Initiative, the price of attending a private four-year college has increased, on average, 6.2% annually.
The reasons behind this price increase are manifold, and include the high number of non-instructional jobs (referred to as “administrative bloat”), the overbuilding of on-campus amenities, high-wage labor, and an increase in subsidized student loans.
Even though these colleges are the most expensive in their respective states, the individual price tags vary dramatically. The average annual net price of the public University of Wyoming in Laramie is $10,452, making it the least expensive school on this list. At the other end of the spectrum is Valencia, California’s California Institute of the Arts, a small private visual and performing arts school with a tuition of $53,916. (These are the states where the most people have gone to college.)
Schools with a strong focus on business, management, marketing, and related support services tend to be the most expensive in their state, as do ones that have strong engineering programs and in-demand visual and performing arts programs. (See the hardest colleges to get into).
In states including Alaska, New Mexico, and Wyoming, even the most expensive college costs less than $15,000 to attend annually, making it affordable by modern standards. In many other states, however, the most expensive college has a price tag that is more than twice that.
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