5 of the Most Expensive Colleges in the U.S.

About fifteen years ago, a student could easily find a public university that came with a price tag of less than $10,000 per year. This price would cover tuition, fees, room, and board. College has always been pricey, but these days, it’s more expensive than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between the 2000-01 school year and the 2011-12 year, prices for tuition, fees, room, and board at public colleges and universities rose 40 percent — and that’s after adjusting for inflation.

As of the last school year, the average cost of going to college (including room and board) at public, in-state schools was just under $20,000, and those who attended out-of-state or private colleges likely paid closer to $30,000 or $40,000. This is an extremely large amount of money — more than many people earn during an entire year.

Given the high bill that comes along with a college education, why do some students choose to attend schools in even higher price ranges? Is it the prestige? Maybe a specific college is part of their family’s legacy or maybe they’ve dreamed about going to a certain school for their whole lives?

Using research from Business Insider and the College Affordability and Transparency Centerwe ranked some of the most expensive schools in the country in order based on tuition costs, but also taking total cost into consideration as well. In addition to finding out how much these schools cost, we also wanted to know what they offer that makes them so pricey.

by: STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

by: STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

5. NYU

  • Tuition and Fees: $46,690
  • Room and Board: $16,782
  • Books and Personal: $3,070
  • Total Cost of Attendance: $66,542 for the 2014-15 school year

New York University was founded in 1831 — nearly 200 years ago. As one of the largest private universities in the U.S., NYU draws in a wide variety of academic achievers and the majority of NYU freshman were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

Its location, combined with its reputation for helping to produce successful graduates, makes NYU a choice school. NYU has an 85 percent graduation rate and a 5.4 percent annual return on investment, according to Payscale’s ROI report.



4. Bard College

  • Tuition and Fees: $48,510
  • Room and Board: $15,116
  • Estimated Cost of Books (Using nationwide average for books): $1,100
  • Total Cost of Attendance: $64,726 for the 2014-15 school year

You may find Bard College on a few “best schools” lists, as it has received a few accolades. As a smaller school, total enrollment for Bard College and its affiliates is only around 5,000. Some describe the school as breathtakingly beautiful. These words from a former student were written about the school in Town & Country magazine: “The school is a kind of riverbank aerie high above the Hudson, in a semi-remote spot two hours north of New York City — just about where the river valley stops being a densely settled echo of the city and starts becoming desolate woods.”

Payscale’s ROI report shows this school has a 79 percent graduation rate, yet it has only a moderate overall annual return on investment of 1.5 percent.  

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3.  Harvey Mudd College

  • Tuition and Fees: $48,594
  • Room and Board: $15,833
  • Books and Personal: $2,200
  • Total Cost of Attendance: $66,627 for the 2014-15 school year

As one of the premier schools for engineering, math, and science disciplines, this school draws in some of the finest mathematical and scientific minds. Harvey Mudd has ranked high on a few “best school lists,” and according to the Payscale ROI report, it has a higher annual ROI of 8.8 percent as well as a graduation rate of 88 percent.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

by: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

2. University of Chicago

  • Tuition and Fees: $49,380
  • Room and Board: $14,205
  • Estimated Cost of Books (using national average for books): $1,100
  • Total Cost of Attendance: $64,630 for the 2014-15 school year

The University of Chicago has a high graduation rate — 92 percent. It also has a 5.4 percent return on investment. The school has received numerous accolades, including placement on best schools lists, best law schools lists, and best science schools lists. The University and its affiliates are also known for their world famous alumni, which include film critic Roger Ebert and author Kurt Vonnegut.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

1. Columbia University

  • Tuition and Fees: $51,008
  • Room and Board: $12,432
  • Books and Personal: $3,164
  • Total Cost of Attendance: $66,604 for the 2014-15 school year

Tuition at Columbia averaged just over $47,000 for the 2013-13 school year, which is about double the national average for not-for-profit schools. Aside from holding a place on several “best schools” lists, Columbia had 26,376 applicants for the 2013 school year and only admitted around 7 percent of them. The school also has a beautiful campus in a pretty expensive area: the upper west side of Manhattan. The University also has a 95 percent graduation rate. 

More from Personal Finance Cheat Sheet: