What price college?
If you're a parent with a college degree and have a college-bound child, I'm sure that you have compared the cost of your education with that of your about-to-be-first-year daughter or son. The contrast is shocking.
You may be fortunate enough to have a child who has been awarded a significant amount of merit or need-based aid, which can dramatically reduce the impact of those twice-yearly invoices that always seem to arrive at the most inconvenient times. I refer to them as The Money Monster.
There seems to be no rational logic behind the incessant upward spiral of how much colleges are charging their students. In doing a bit of background research for my post today, I found some quantification of just how dramatic the cost rise of a college education has been. I have to admit that even I was surprised at the numbers, since I have been associated with the higher education scene for decades. My situation may be one of those “Can't see the forest for the trees" perspectives. (I never did grasp the full meaning of that saying.)
Anyway, consider this, from a U.S. News report:
Here's a quick breakdown of how schools in each category performed, looking at data reported by ranked schools that were included in editions of the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings from 1995 to 2015:
- The average tuition and fees at private National Universities jumped 179 percent.
- Out-of-state tuition and fees at public universities rose 226 percent since 1995.
- In-state tuition and fees at public National Universities grew the most, increasing a staggering 296 percent.
Despite experiencing the biggest increase, attending a public universityas an in-state student is still the most affordable four-year college option, on average.
Medical cost increases seem like pikers compared to college cost spikes. One has to wonder why.
Well, if you have been following Admit This! over time, you will have seen my articles touting the best and most luxurious college facilities around the country. Dorms that look like resort hotels aren't uncommon. Food courts that put mall facilities to shame and sporting arenas that look like Super Bowl sites have come to be expected by many undergraduates.
Take a look around campus these days. Fancy buildings designed by award-winning architects grace the atmosphere. Meticulous landscaping makes school grounds look like fabulous estates. One might suppose that these places are where thousands of young people congregate nine months out of the year to have a vacation … with some classes thrown in.
The downside of this opulence is that once a prospective student visits, s/he becomes smitten with the amenities; the academics and “fit" often play a secondary role. Thus, the “dream school" syndrome sets in and other possible education venues that have fewer, or less appealing, charms take a back seat, regardless of potentially better academics and/or fit.
So, how much are college really charging these days? Keep in mind that the so-called “sticker price" of a college isn't necessarily the price you'll pay, unless you're one of those unfortunate “full-pay" families that qualify for neither need-based or merit aid. If you are, then brace yourself for a Money Monster with several additional rows of razor-sharp teeth.
Here are some numbers, then, rounded up by Campus Grotto in their yearly compilation, under the title America's 100 Most Expensive Colleges. Here's a portion of the introduction:
The list of the 100 most expensive colleges by total cost (tuition + room & board + required fees) are all private and range from $56,000 all the way up to $65,000 per year. This is a significant jump in price from the average private university cost of $42,419 and (obviously) the average cost of attending a public in-state college at $18,943.
With most of these schools surpassing the $60K per year mark, incoming students can expect to see a price tag of over a quarter-million dollars for their 4-year degree when expected yearly increases in tuition are taken into account. When you consider only about a third of students complete their degree within four years, you can see how students can really rack up student loan debt.
While the majority of these colleges offer great financial aid packages to those with need, it's important to note there are still students who are paying these exuberant prices. At Duke University (#44 on this list), for example, about 50% of its students are paying the fully listed price of $60,533.
See what I mean about full-pay families? Without them, most colleges wouldn't be able to operate. This surprisingly high number of full-payers reminds me of what the professional assassin, Joubert, said to CIA operative, Joe Turner, at the end of Three Days of The Condor regarding clients who needed to have a particular person “disappeared." Joubert said, “There's always someone willing to pay."
And so it goes with these expensive schools. There are always families willing to pay. Many of the schools on the following list could fill their incoming classes with students from full-pay families, but that would be completely crazy. Thank goodness for financial aid.
Top 100 Most Expensive Colleges by Total Cost
|1. Sarah Lawrence College||65,480|
|2. Harvey Mudd College||64,427|
|3. New York University||63,472|
|4. Columbia University||63,440|
|5. University of Chicago||62,458|
|6. Claremont McKenna College||62,215|
|7. Fordham University – Lincoln Center||62,192|
|8. Bard College||62,012|
|9. Dartmouth College||61,947|
|10. Scripps College||61,940|
|11. Oberlin College||61,788|
|12. Trinity College (CT)||61,756|
|13. Pitzer College||61,750|
|14. Bard College at Simon's Rock||61,735|
|15. Northwestern University||61,640|
|16. University of Southern California||61,614|
|17. Haverford College||61,564|
|18. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||61,529|
|19. Fordham University – Rose Hill||61,472|
|20. Drexel University||61,383|
|21. Johns Hopkins University||61,306|
|22. Tufts University||61,277|
|23. Amherst College||61,206|
|24. Wesleyan University||61,198|
|25. Carnegie Mellon University||61,186|
|26. Vassar College||61,140|
|28. Williams College||61,070|
|29. Occidental College||60,972|
|30. Cornell University||60,964|
|31. Connecticut College||60,895|
|32. Tulane University||60,861|
|33. Eugene Lang College (The New School)||60,852|
|34. Franklin & Marshall College||60,799|
|35. Georgetown University||60,768|
|36. Brandeis University||60,750|
|37. Bates College||60,720|
|38. Hampshire College||60,715|
|39. Barnard College||60,700|
|40. Boston University||60,694|
|41. University of Rochester||60,668|
|42. Boston College||60,622|
|43. Southern Methodist University||60,586|
|44. Duke University||60,533|
|45. Pomona College||60,532|
|46. The George Washington University||60,460|
|47. Washington University in St. Louis||60,355|
|48. Bennington College||60,310|
|49. Union College (NY)||60,240|
|50. Stevens Institute of Technology||60,168|
|51. Colgate University||60,145|
|52. Bucknell University||60,140|
|53. Carleton College||60,102|
|54. Pepperdine University||60,082|
|55. Hobart and William Smith College||60,034|
|56. St. Lawrence University||59,972|
|57. Hamilton College||59,970|
|58. Reed College||59,960|
|59. Skidmore College||59,942|
|60. Bryn Mawr College||59,890|
|61. Yale University||59,800|
|62. Smith College||59,674|
|63. Dickinson College||59,664|
|64. Babson College||59,614|
|65. Swarthmore College||59,610|
|66. Bowdoin College||59,568|
|67. Colby College||59,500|
|68. University of Notre Dame||59,461|
|69. Brown University||59,428|
|70. Olin College||59,225|
|71. Middlebury College||59,160|
|72. Lafayette College||59,155|
|73. Wellesley College||59,038|
|74. St. John's College (MD)||58,896|
|75. Kenyon College||58,890|
|76. Wake Forest University||58,838|
|77. Gettysburg College||58,820|
|79. Wheaton College (MA)||58,511|
|80. Stanford University||58,388|
|81. Villanova University||58,244|
|83. Vanderbilt University||58,220|
|84. St. John's College (NM)||58,208|
|86. Chapman University||58,048|
|87. College of the Holy Cross||58,042|
|88. Emory University||57,768|
|89. Macalester College||57,691|
|90. Ursinus College||57,580|
|91. Northeastern University||57,490|
|92. University of Richmond||57,470|
|93. Providence College||57,383|
|94. Drew University||57,366|
|95. Worcester Polytechnic Institute||57,304|
|96. Colorado College||57,162|
|97. University of Miami||57,034|
|98. Fairfield University||56,960|
|99. Loyola University Maryland||56,880|
|100. Denison University||56,850|
[Data compiled by CampusGrotto.com]
Shocked? You should be.
Keep in mind that the costs cited above are for just one academic year. There's no guarantee that the schools on this list will assure you a four-year degree. It's possible that a fifth year (or, perish the thought, even more time) may be required due to uncompleted graduation requirements, illness, or other extenuating circumstances. Add more Money Monster teeth!
If you can gather your wits in the face of these numbers, take Campus Grotto's advice, as I have mentioned in previous posts here:
To get a better understanding of what you will actually be paying, be sure to use net price calculators that each school provides on their website. These typically take about 10-15 minutes to complete, but can provide a more realistic figure of what you can expect to pay. (For a complete list of colleges and links to their net price calculators visit NetPriceCalculator.com.)
Happy check writing!
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.