Special Report

The 50 Most Expensive Colleges in America

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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.

50. Endicott College (Beverly, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,196
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 77.2%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,977
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: Scott Wintrow / Getty Images

49. Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,234
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 18.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,044
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

48. Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,244
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 88.1%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 6,298
> Most popular field of study: Health professions and related programs

Source: JHVEPhoto / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

47. Lynn University (Boca Raton, FL)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,315
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 83.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 18:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,640
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: Courtesy of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences via Facebook

46. MCPHS University (Boston, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,390
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 97.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 3,668
> Most popular field of study: Health professions and related programs

Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

45. Butler University (Indianapolis, IN)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,643
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 80.5%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 11:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,537
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: CynthiaAnnF / iStock via Getty Images

44. Lafayette College (Easton, PA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,754
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 40.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,725
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

43. Denison University (Granville, OH)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,833
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 28.3%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,321
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

42. Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,927
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 18.4%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 15:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 15,747
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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41. Kenyon College (Gambier, OH)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $38,927
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 36.5%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,875
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

Source: Katie Dobies / iStock via Getty Images

40. Union College (Schenectady, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $39,101
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 47.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,096
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

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39. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $39,294
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 77.4%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 11:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,081
> Most popular field of study: Engineering

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

38. Providence College (Providence, RI)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $39,566
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 58.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 11:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,179
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

37. University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $39,825
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 70.9%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 5,969
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: Faina Gurevich / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

36. University of Denver (Denver, CO)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $39,973
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 63.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 5,867
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

35. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,070
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 53.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 5,614
> Most popular field of study: Engineering

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34. University of Rochester (Rochester, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,125
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 40.5%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 6,568
> Most popular field of study: Engineering

Source: Lisa Bronitt / iStock via Getty Images

33. Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,180
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 45.8%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 11:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 7,127
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

32. California College of the Arts (San Francisco, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,231
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 77.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 8:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,249
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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31. Bryant University (Smithfield, RI)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,310
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 73.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 3,063
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: BSPollard / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

30. Elon University (Elon, NC)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,366
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 77.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 6,302
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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29. Chapman University (Orange, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,451
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 60.4%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 7,714
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

28. High Point University (High Point, NC)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,604
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 80.3%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 17:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,910
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: John Penney / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

27. Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,828
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 52.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,064
> Most popular field of study: Engineering

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Source: Wolterk / Getty Images

26. Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $40,945
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 52.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 3,708
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

25. Bentley University (Waltham, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $41,708
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 60.9%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 3,996
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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24. Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $41,986
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 53.1%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 6,908
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: andyleeadams / iStock / Getty Images Plus

23. Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $42,574
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 53.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 14:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 10,222
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: Jim Brown / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

22. Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $43,047
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 38.2%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,964
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

21. Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $43,545
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 59.2%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 14:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 14,778
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

20. The New School (New York, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $43,547
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 66.3%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 7,381
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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Source: Courtesy of sacredheart.edu

19. Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $43,907
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 66.1%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 14:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 6,761
> Most popular field of study: Health professions and related programs

Source: kim willems / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

18. Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $44,689
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 34.3%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,942
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

17. Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $44,723
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 55.8%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,603
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: Jim Brown / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

16. Scripps College (Claremont, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $44,770
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 29.5%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,095
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

15. Connecticut College (New London, CT)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $44,820
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 41.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,829
> Most popular field of study: Social sciences

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Dominican University of California (San Rafael, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $45,001
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 92.9%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,249
> Most popular field of study: Health professions and related programs

Source: RAUL RODRIGUEZ / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

13. Tulane University of Louisiana (New Orleans, LA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $45,048
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 9.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 8:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 8,700
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: MichaelWarrenPix / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

12. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $45,163
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 80.8%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 20:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 12,772
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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11. Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $45,402
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 79.8%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 9:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,197
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

Source: aimintang / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

10. Baylor University (Waco, TX)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $46,039
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 56.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 16:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 15,191
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Pratt Institute-Main (Brooklyn, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $46,486
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 67.9%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 3,908
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $48,055
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 55.2%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 7,177
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $48,230
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 60.2%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 14:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 5,224
> Most popular field of study: Engineering

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Source: jejim / iStock via Getty Images

6. Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $48,469
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 54.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 11:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 5,895
> Most popular field of study: Business, management, marketing, and related support services

Source: Courtesy of Emerson College

5. Emerson College (Boston, MA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $48,842
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 45.3%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 13:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 4,117
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $50,214
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 81.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 10:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,795
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

3. Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $50,420
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 75.6%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 8:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 2,028
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

Source: littleny / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

2. New York University (New York, NY)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $50,991
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 13.0%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 8:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 28,772
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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Source: Courtesy of Ringling College of Art and Design

1. Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL)
> Avg. annual net price, 2020-21: $51,318
> Acceptance rate, 2020-21: 68.7%
> Student-to-faculty ratio, fall 2021: 12:1
> Undergraduate enrollment, fall 2021: 1,663
> Most popular field of study: Visual and performing arts

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