Studying in the U.S. isn’t cheap. Or well, it can be if you’re okay with attending a community college that is. But for those who have their sights set on attending one of the U.S.’s prestigious universities, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.
It’s not uncommon to see tuitions in the tens of thousands of dollars per year. And that’s not even including the cost of room and board, books, and other necessary expenses.
To some people, these tuitions are blasphemy. How could something as necessary to the development of our country like education be so expensive? To others, they see it as an investment. Something that will eventually pay off in the long run.
And then there are those who simply can’t afford it and must take out loans, sometimes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to attend college for four years.
No matter what your opinion is on the matter, there’s no denying that college is expensive.
In this article, you are going to learn what are the most expensive colleges in the U.S., and what you can expect by attending them. They say ‘you get what you pay for’, so let’s see if that adage holds any truth when it comes to these colleges.
Why are College Prices so High?
It’s no secret that college prices have been on the rise for years now. But why?
There are a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that colleges are becoming increasingly ‘luxurious’. In order to attract the best and brightest students from around the globe, schools are constantly trying to outdo each other by building new state-of-the-art facilities, hiring famous professors, and offering more and more extracurricular activities.
In other words, they’re trying to make the college experience as ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyable’ as possible. And while that’s all well and good, it comes at a price.
Another reason college prices have been increasing is because, quite simply, there’s more demand for it than ever before. More and more people are going to college now than at any other point in history. And as we all know, when there’s high demand for something, the price usually goes up.
Federal grants and loans are also partly to blame. Because the government is willing to lend students money, colleges have been able to increase their prices without fear that fewer people will attend.
So those are some of the reasons behind why college is so expensive. But what about when it comes to specific colleges? Which ones take the cake when it comes to being the most expensive in the U.S.?
The 10 Most Expensive Colleges in America
Before getting into the list, we must make a few things clear. First of all, when we say ‘the most expensive colleges’, we’re not only referring to tuition, which is only one part of the equation. There are also other costs to consider, such as room and board, books, and other necessary expenses.
The most expensive colleges conveniently happen to be in some of the most expensive cities in America. So even if you’re getting a good financial aid package, the cost of living in these places can still be pretty high.
Furthermore, some colleges offer need-based financial aid, which can lower the net price for some students. Another thing to consider is in-state vs out-of-state tuition. In general, out-of-state students will pay more to attend college than in-state students.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the list of the most expensive colleges in America, based on tuition prices, from the least to the most expensive.
You know, for the ‘Ivy League’ school that everyone wants to go to, Harvard is actually not the most expensive college on this list. It’s still pretty pricey though, with tuition costing $54,768 per year. Add on room and board, books, and other necessary expenses, and the total cost comes to about $92,000.
Yes, Harvard’s tuition isn’t that high (compared to other colleges on this list), living there is what will put a serious dent into your finances. Plus, the cost of living in Cambridge, Massachusetts (where Harvard is located) is about 33% higher than the national average.
However, if you’re lucky enough to get into Harvard, you probably don’t have to worry too much about the cost. That’s because the school offers generous financial aid packages, with about 60% of students having their tuition fully covered.
Harvard does offer need-based financial aid, so if you can demonstrate that you’re not able to pay for college without assistance, the school will do what it can to help you out. For example, they may offer you a grant that doesn’t have to be repaid.
So if you’re looking to get into Harvard, don’t let the cost discourage you. The school is need-aware, not need-blind, so your financial situation will be taken into account during the admissions process.
One of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in America, Amherst College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. It’s also one of the most expensive colleges in the U.S., with a year costing you around $80,000 all things considered.
However, Amherst is need-blind for all applicants and meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted students.
If the liberal arts are your thing, then Amherst is definitely worth considering, even if the price tag is a bit steep. Unfortunately, graduating in the liberal arts isn’t always the most lucrative path, so you’ll want to be sure that’s what you’re passionate about before attending Amherst.
The University of Southern California is a private research university located in Los Angeles, California. It rightfully won a place on our list, with tuition and other expenses totaling around $85,000 per year.
To be more specific, tuition will cost you $63,468 per year, with another $17,000 for room and meals, and $5,000 in extra expenses like fees, books, and transportation.
However, USC does offer some financial aid for students in need. For example, they claim that over 50% of their undergraduate students receive some form of aid. And California isn’t exactly known for being an inexpensive state to live in.
But if you’re looking for a top-notch education from one of the most prestigious universities in America, USC is definitely worth considering. Just be sure you have a solid financial plan in place before attending.
USC is a highly selective school, with an acceptance rate of just 17%. But if you’re lucky enough to get in, you’ll be joining a student body of over 50,000 people.
As one of the eight Ivy League colleges, it’s no surprise that Columbia University is on this list. Plus, it’s located in New York City, which as we all know, is not exactly the cheapest place to live in.
Take the advanced standing program in mental medicine at Columbia. It will cost you $74,394 per term. But if you’re accepted, it could be worth it.
After all, Columbia is one of the most respected universities in the world and boasts some pretty impressive alumni. If you can swing it financially, Columbia is definitely a great choice.
Also, there are programs that are definitely more affordable. For example, their School of General Studies offers a degree that “only” costs $33,116 per term.
Brown University is another one of the Ivy League colleges, located in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s also one of the most expensive colleges in America, with a total cost of around $85,000 per year.
Tuition at Brown is $62,680 per year. Add in another $15,000 for room and board, and $11,000 in other expenses, and you’re looking at a pretty hefty price tag.
Fortunately, Brown offers need-based financial aid and meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted students. So if you qualify for financial aid, the cost of attendance could be significantly lower.
Brown offers a very generous financial aid program. 44% of the class of 2025 received need-based financial aid, and the average aid package was over $60,000. So if you’re admitted to Brown and have financial need, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting a good deal on your education.
But even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, Brown is still worth considering. It’s an excellent university with a rich history and a beautiful campus.
Just be sure you have the financial resources in place before committing to attending. Or that you qualify for financial aid.
Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is yet another Ivy League school that made our list. It’s also one of the oldest colleges in America, founded all the way back in 1769.
Dartmouth College’s tuition is $60,687 per term. If you add up the costs of room, board, and other necessary expenses, you’re looking at a grand total of over $80,000 per year.
But like many of the other colleges on this list, financial aid is available. In fact, over 60% of Dartmouth students receive some form of financial aid.
Dartmouth is also one of the better colleges when it comes to job placement after graduation. So if you’re looking for a prestigious and expensive college that will also help you get a good job afterwards, Dartmouth might be the right choice for you.
The University of Chicago is a private research university located in… you guessed it, Chicago.
The University of Chicago is one of the most prestigious and respected universities in the world. But it doesn’t come cheap, with a year costing around $61,179.00 just in tuition. If you add up the cost of living, books, and other necessary expenses, you’re looking at a pretty hefty cost.
Living on campus will cost you an estimate of around $85,000 per year. And that’s just for tuition and room and board! If you’re looking to save on costs, you could always try to find an off-campus apartment, but good luck with that in Chicago.
However, despite the cost, studying here is an excellent choice if you want to pursue a career in business, economics, or law. Job placement rates in these fields are high, and the University of Chicago has produced some pretty impressive alumni.
Tufts University is a private research university located in Medford, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Tufts University has a reputation for being one of the best schools in the country. But quality doesn’t come cheap, with tuition costing $63,804 per year.
Add living expenses (Boston is quite expensive after all) and other necessary expenses, and you’re looking at a grand total of over $80,000 per year.
But despite the cost, Tufts University is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a top-notch education. The school has an excellent reputation, and job placement rates after graduation are quite high.
Plus, Boston is a great city to live in, with plenty of things to do and see. If you can afford it, Tufts University is definitely a great choice.
Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the eight Ivy League schools. It’s also one of the oldest colleges in America, having been founded by none other than Benjamin Franklin in 1740.
The university has a long list of notable alumni, including several presidents, Supreme Court justices, and over 40 Nobel laureates.
Undergraduates can expect to pay $56,212 in tuition per year.
And if you want to go to grad school here, be prepared to shell out even more. The university’s graduate programs are some of the most expensive in the country, with tuition prices ranging from $30,000 to over $60,000 per year. For example, attending Law school at Upenn will cost you $67,550 per year in tuition, while the Perelman school of medicine will cost you $61,586 per year.
Located in Claremont, California, Harvey Mudd College is a private college that specializes in science and engineering. If you thought only Ivy League colleges were expensive, think again!
Harvey Mudd College comes in at number one on our list with a whopping tuition price of $77,339 per year. And that’s just for tuition! When you factor in other necessary expenses, the total cost of attendance can be upwards of $90,000.
But despite the high price tag, Harvey Mudd College is considered to be one of the best colleges in the country. In fact, it’s often ranked as the number one college for STEM majors.
So if you’re looking for a top-notch education and don’t mind spending a pretty penny, Harvey Mudd College might be the place for you.
The Cost of Not Attending University
We talked a lot about how expensive college is, but what about the cost of not attending?
Many people argue that the cost of not going to college is even higher than the cost of attending. After all, a college degree still remains one of the best ways to guarantee yourself a good job and a comfortable life.
Not everyone agrees with this, of course. There are plenty of people who have been successful without attending college. But the fact remains that, on average, college graduates make more money and have lower unemployment rates than those who don’t have a degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it best: workers with a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,305 in 2020, compared with $781 for workers with a high school diploma. This means that, on average, college graduates were earning about 67% more than those without a degree.
In terms of unemployment rates, the story is much the same. In 2022, the unemployment rate for college graduates was just over half of what it was for high school graduates (at just under five percent).
So while there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful if you go to college, the odds are certainly in your favor.
And that’s not even taking into account the other benefits of attending college, like personal growth, new experiences, and meeting new people.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not the cost of attending college is worth it.
So there you have it. These are some of the most expensive colleges in the United States.
Of course, there are many other expensive schools out there. There is no shortage of private colleges that cost over $50,000 per year to attend.
But if you’re looking for the absolute most expensive colleges in the country, these are the ones you should keep an eye on. And remember, while it’s true that you get what you pay for, the truth is that attending a top-notch college doesn’t matter if you don’t have good work ethics.
Employers might be impressed by that degree from Harvard, but if you’re not a hard worker, it won’t do you any good in the long run. Though, of course, graduating from Harvard without being a hard worker is pretty much impossible.
In the end, the decision of whether or not to attend college is a personal one. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for you. And whatever you do, don’t let the cost deter you from getting a quality education. After all, it’s one of the most important investments you can make in your future, that will impact you for your entire life.
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