Special Report

The 50 Most Expensive Colleges in America

A survey released this Summer revealed that just 44% of parents feel that they’ll be prepared to pay for their child’s education by their freshman year. Another poll found that just 36% of Americans have “a great deal of confidence” in higher education. After a lengthy period of relief that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan payments are resuming in October. Perhaps more so than any point in this country’s history, Americans are questioning the connection between higher education and achieving the American dream, something that most people took for granted not long ago. It remains to be seen how this changing perspective will impact the nation’s top schools, many of which are also the country’s most expensive.  

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of attending a private four-year institution, including tuition and fees, has risen an astonishing 124.2% over the past 20 years, for an annual increase of 6.2%. Since 1990, average tuition has increased 130% after adjusting for inflation. In fact, the rising cost of tuition has outpaced the rate of inflation by 171.5%. Those who graduated from a private college in 1985 paid, on average, $5,556 in annual tuition. Today, that price has skyrocketed to $32,769. (Also read: this is every state’s hardest college to get into.)

Why has college gotten to be so expensive? According to research published by economist Beth Akers of the Manhattan Institute, it boils down to four main reasons: administrative bloat, an “arms race” leading to an overbuilding of on-campus amenities, a model that is dependent on high-wage labor, and an increase in subsidized student loans. Regardless of the reasons, college has become considerably more expensive. 

To determine the 50 most expensive colleges in the United States, 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 1,000 undergraduates enrolled in fall 2021 were considered.

All the schools on the list are private nonprofit institutions. They start at an average net price of just over $38,000 for Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. The most expensive college on the list, Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, costs over $51,000 annually. In 20 of the most expensive colleges, the most popular field of study is business, management, marketing, and related support services, while in 13 it is visual and performing arts. 

In 35 schools on the list, the acceptance rate is over 50%. Six schools have acceptance rates below 30%. The hardest school to get accepted to on the list is Tulane University of Louisiana in New Orleans, with a 9.6% acceptance rate. The private research university is rated A+ overall by Niche, a school ranking provider. Another school rated A+ is New York University – the second most expensive school and second hardest to get into on the list, with an acceptance rate of about 13%. (Find if these are among the hardest colleges to get into.)

Click here to see the most expensive colleges in the United States.

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