Paying for College

Most Expensive Colleges for 2011-2012

Here's an amazing fact: In 2007, there was only one college that had a total cost of over $50,000. Now, there are 20 that cost over $55,000.

Sounds like lots of schools are jumping on the high-cost bandwagon. The first question that pops into my head is: Are we getting what we're paying for and is the quality of education tracking the rate of increased cost? I'm seeing a larger than usual question mark in my mind's eye.

The folks at Campus Grotto have been tracking rising college costs for the past five years, and regarding their latest most-expensive lists (see below), they state, "While the names on this list haven't changed much over the years, the numbers sure have. When we first started ranking colleges by cost back in 2007, only one school (GWU) had a total cost of over $50K, now 111 do. Back then, not a single school had tuition over $40K, now 80 have passed that mark. There are now nineteen universities charging over $55,000 (just one last year), and that's not even including the cost of textbooks."

Is your head swimming yet? Maybe your wallet is having convulsions. In any case, here are the Campus Grotto lists.

Highest Tuition 2011-2012

1. Middlebury College$45,935
2. Sarah Lawrence College$44,220
3. The George Washington University$44,103
4. Vassar College$44,050
5. Connecticut College$43,990
6. Bucknell University$43,628
7. Wesleyan University$43,404
8. St. John's College$43,256
9. University of Richmond$43,170
10. Carnegie Mellon University$43,160

More: See the Top 100

When required fees are added onto tuition, the rankings change slightly, mainly because some schools (Columbia, Penn, Harvard) have fees that total a couple thousand dollars.

Highest Tuition and Fees 2011-2012

CollegeTuition + Fees
1. Middlebury College$46,315
2. Columbia University$45,290
3. Sarah Lawrence College$45,212
4. Vassar College$44,705
5. The George Washington University$44,148
6. Trinity College (CT)$44,070
7. Connecticut College$43,990
8. Bucknell University$43,866
9. Carnegie Mellon University$43,812
10. Wesleyan University$43,674

More: See the Top 100

Room and board is another cost that is often overlooked. Many colleges in the urban areas of New York, Boston, and the California coast have room and board expenses that run $13,000-$14,000 per year. Our favorite example is with NYU, who ranks 91st in tuition, but when factoring in room and board they become the 2nd most expensive college. Here we add the cost of a typical double room plus meal plan charged by each college to get the total cost to attend the college.

Most Expensive Colleges 2011-2012

CollegeTotal Cost
1. Sarah Lawrence College$59,170
2. New York University$56,787
3. Columbia University$56,310
4. Harvey Mudd College$55,998
5. Eugene Lang College (The New School)$55,890
6. Claremont McKenna College$55,865
7. Wesleyan University$55,706
8. Bard College$55,617
9. Barnard College$55,566
10. Trinity College (CT)$55,450
11. University of Chicago$55,416
12. University of Southern California$55,384
13. Dartmouth College$55,365
14. Drexel University$55,335
15. Bates College$55,300
16. Johns Hopkins University$55,242
17. Vassar College$55,135
18. Bard College at Simon's Rock$55,110
19. Haverford College$55,050
20. Pitzer College$54,988
21. Fordham University - Lincoln Center$54,972
22. Connecticut College$54,970
23. Bennington College$54,960
24. Occidental College$54,950
25. Carnegie Mellon University$54,922

More: See the Top 100

Total Cost = Tuition + Room & Board + Required Fees

Data compiled by

Other Notable Colleges:

  • While Harvard is 82nd in total cost, it ranks 146 in tuition.
  • Princeton ranks 114th total cost and 125th in Tuition.
  • UC Berkeley ranks 115th in total cost.
  • UCLA ranks 120th in total cost.


Total Cost = Tuition + Room and Board + Required Fees


In this blogger's humble view, sticker price does definitely not equal quality. So, you've got to do your homework on the cost-value relationship before you invest. Return on Investment (ROI) should be at the top of every family's list of college-choice considerations. Far too often ROI is trumped by "prestige" (whatever that means).

How does one research ROI? Well, one way is to Google "best college buys." You'll be glad you did.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.