25 Most Expensive Colleges in the US

Most Expensive Colleges in the US

By understanding college costs, you can compare schools to find ones you can afford. And ones that are too expensive even if you secure financial aid. The cost of attending (COA) college varies from one to the next. Each school sets its own tuition for example, and fees. Some colleges also offer one price for residents, another for out-of-state and online students. You incur other expenses while at college too. The most expensive colleges in the US vary in COA and depend on your household's income.

To figure out what the most expensive colleges in the US are, you can start with the COA of each school. This is a total of these common costs:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Room and Board (rent, food, etc.)
  • Books and school supplies
  • Miscellaneous (computer, sheets and towels, reading lamp, etc)
  • Travel to and from school

Household Income and the Cost of College 

The other thing that impacts the cost of college is your household income (HH). Your HH is the gross income of all the members (aged 15 years or older) who are living together. To find out which colleges are the most expensive for you, the formula is: COA minus HH. This leaves the sum that will come out of your pocket.

Given, some colleges come with higher price tags and median family incomes also differ. So, the cost of going to a specific college may vary from one person to the next. Also, the amount of federal financial aid each student is eligible for depends on the results of your FAFSA. Or, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The FAFSA takes in both COA and HH and calculates what is called your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is the number that’s used to check if you qualify and how much financial aid. 

It tends to be on the report generated by a FAFSA called an student aid report (SAR). The SAR goes to each college you apply to so make sure it has the correct info.

Here, we outline the most expensive colleges for families with different income levelsOur data draws from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and looks at averages for all undergrads.

Most Expensive Colleges for Families with an Income of Less than $30,000 per Year

This table outlines the most expensive colleges for families with an income below $30K per year.

CollegePercent Admitted 

Average Net Price of Federal Financial Aid

Average Amount of 
Financial Aid/Scholarships
Average Federal Loan Amount
Southern New Hampshire University73%$43,038$3,888$7,259
Savannah College of Art and Design 70%$39,498$11,766$6,410
The New School57%$37,224$16,566$6,893
Quinnipiac University72%$32,775$22,688$6,790
Keiser University – Ft. Lauderdale100%$30,118$7,409$10,562
Academy of Art University 100%$29,839$9,085$7,171
Hofstra University63%$29,282$23,690$6,673
New York University 20%$29,080$29,480$7,355
Southern Methodist University51%$28,924$31,071$6,504
Loyola University Chicago68%$28,591$20,074$6,854
University of St. Thomas80%$27,757$19,767$6,889
DeVry University – Illinois94%$27,320$4,838$7,291
Liberty University 56%$26,570$7,509$7,656
Independence University100%$26,555$6,069$8,746
Full Sail University100%$25,797$7,531$11,104
Fordham University46%$25,410$27,610$6,696
Columbia College100%$25,162$5,375$7,735
Pace University76%$24,939$26,647$7,227
Drexel University77%$24,714$23,740$7,559
Texas Christian University41%$24,370$24,704$6,858
Baylor University39%$24,220$22,356$6,822
DePaul University68%$24,170$19,363$6,843
University of Miami32%$23,694$31,431$5,573
Villanova University29%$23,172$30,900$7,207
St John’s University – New York73%$23,142$24,887$6,616

Most Expensive Colleges for Families with an Income of $30,001 to $48,000 per Year

This table points out the most expensive colleges for families with an income of between $30,001 and $48,000.

CollegePercent Admitted

Average Net Price of Federal Financial Aid

Average Amount of Financial Aid/ScholarshipsAverage Federal Loan Amount
Savannah College of Art and Design70%$43,212$11,766$6,410
The New School57%$42,200$16,566$6,893
Southern New Hampshire University73%$39,382$3,888$7,259
Loyola University Chicago68%$36,729$20,074$6,854
Quinnipiac University72%$35,090$22,688$6,790
Academy of Art University100%$34,539$9,085$7,171
Keiser University – Ft. Lauderdale100%$33,750$7,409$10,562
Hofstra University63%$32,765$23,690$6,673
Drexel University77%$32,687$23,740$7,559
Long Island University76%$31,392$19,269$7,730
University of St. Thomas80%$30,827$19,767$6,889
Columbia College100%$23,739$5,375$7,735
DePaul University68%$29,378$19,363$6,843
Azusa Pacific University69%$29,136$21,117$7,001
Fordham University46%$29,987$27,610$6,696
New York University20%$28,401$29,480$7,355
Liberty University56%$28,185$7,509$7,656
DeVry University – Illinois94%$28,148$4,838$7,291
Seton Hall University70%$27,958$24,185$6,816
American University32%$27,957$26,636$6,350
Tulane University of Louisiana17%$27,562$5,770$9,150
ECPI University72%$27,280$24,704$6,858
Texas Christian University41%$26,872$24,704$6,858
Touro College71%$26,848$9,631$8,418
Southern Methodist University51%$26,694$31,071$6,504

Most Expensive Colleges for Families with an Income of $75,001 to $110,000 Per Year

The table below outlines the most expensive colleges for families with an income of between $75,001 to $110,000. 

CollegePercent Admitted Average Net Price of Federal Financial AidAverage Amount of Financial Aid/ScholarshipsAverage Federal Loan Amount
Southern New Hampshire University73%$44,377$3,888$7,259
The New School57%$44,137$16,566$6,893
Hofstra University  63%$42,515$23,690$6,673
Loyola University Chicago68%$38,506$20,074$6,854
Savannah College of Art and Design70%$36,329$11,766$6,410
Carnegie Mellon University 17%$35,890$33,999$7,307
Seton Hall University70%$35,866$24,185$6,816
Academy of Art University 100%$35,686$9,085$7,171
New York University20%$35,409$29,480$7,355
Long Island University76%$34,824$19,269$7,730
Quinnipiac University  72%$33,996$22,688$6,790
Touro College71%$33,802$26,636$6,350
American University32%$33,044$26,636$6,350
Keiser University -Ft. Lauderdale100%$32,751$7,409$10,562
Saint Louis University  58%$32,628$24,674$7,161
Tulane University of Louisiana17%$35,552$5,770$9,150
DeVry University – Illinois94%$32,552$4,838$7,291
Universidad Ana G. Mendez- Carolina Campus100%$32,265$4,603$4,974
Columbia College100%$31,928$5,375$7,735
Villanova University29%$31,889$30,900$7,207
University of Denver56%$31,733$29,667$6,854
Drexel University77%$31,664$23,740$7,559
Marquette University82%$31,663$19,330$7,284
Pace University76%$31,409$26,647$7,227
Independence University100%$30,349$6,069$8,746

Most Expensive Colleges for Families with an Income of $110,000 or more 

The table below shows the most expensive colleges for families with an income of $110,000 or more. If you attend any of the colleges listed below, you can expect to pay approximately $26,282- $57,678 per year. 

College Percent AdmittedAverage Net Price of Federal Financial AidAverage Amount of Financial Aid/ScholarshipsAverage Federal Loan Amount
Academy of Art University100%$57,678$9,085$7,171
Massachusetts Institute of Technology7%$51,487$44,820$6,773
Washington University in St Louis15%$50,333$38,245$5,917
Pace University76%$49,887$26,647$7,227
Hofstra University63%$49,411$23,690$6,673
Campbellsville University83%$48,918$23,690$6,673
Cornell University11%$47,675$15,786$7,551
Liberty University56%$47,586$7,509$7,656
ECPI University72%$47,562$24,704$6,858
Brigham Young University – Idaho97%$47,403$6,0552$7,907
Universidad Ana G. Mendez – Gurabo Campus100%$47,383$4,825$5,112
Rochester Institute of Technology66%$47,089$19,555$6,334
Saint Leo University60%$46,466$10,869$9,940
Villanova University29%$46,316$30,900$7,207
Full Sail University100%$45,901$7,531$11,104
Azusa Pacific University69%$45,685$21,117$7,001
Boston University22%$45,529$33,085$7,067
Boston College28%$44,887$39,582$4,930
Northwestern University8%$44,641$41,435$5,734
New York University20%$44,440$29,480$7,355
Brown University8%$44,365$42,652$7,251
Capella University100%$44,248$5,051$9,835
University of Rochester29%$43,989$33,531$5,621
The New School57%$43,936$16,566$6,893
Georgetown University15%$43,779$40,160$4,846

12 Tips to Bring College Costs Down

There are a few ways to lower the cost of college. 

1. Begin in High School 
Check with an academic advisor to see if you can take (AP) college classes while still in high school. This is also called “dual enrollment”. It is one way to work towards your degree while living with family. You can reduce the number of credits to pay for at college. 

2. Study for a two year associate's degree
Many students earn an associate degree to save money on college tuition. According to the NCES, the cost of attending a public two year college is $10,598 per year. It averages $26,593 per year at public four year colleges. Aside from savings, another plus is getting your general education courses out of the way. But word to the wise – only accredited schools tend to work with transfer credits.

3. Look into an online degree
Some students may find it more affordable to earn a college degree online. For one, colleges often charge a lower per credit rate for distance learning. Then there’s the flexibility. In most programs you log in anytime and from anywhere. This may be useful to you if you hold a job, are in the military or have a family. It also saves on commute expenses and you do not have to relocate.

4. Study in state or in district vs out of state
Many colleges have a few sets of pricing. One for residents of the college’s state. Another for in district students, and a third for international students and out of state residents. As you may guess, it tends to be cheaper to attend college in-state. According to NCES’s last study, the average cost of earning a four year degree at a public college (in state) is $19,488. Or $24,854 if you pay out of state tuition and fees. Private schools are even higher and cost an average of $41,468. 

5. Explore Housing Options
Room and board and transportation can add up so you might explore the costs of housing options. Students can explore living on campus vs. off campus along with living with family or not living with family.

The NCES gathers data on the COA of living on campus for students pursuing a four year degree. These costs relate to three types of colleges: Public, private nonprofit and private for-profit. Students’ COA was the highest ($50,300) at private nonprofit colleges. However, COA is lower at private for-profit colleges ($32,200) and public colleges ($24,300). 

6. Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are money you do not pay back. Unlike a loan, they should not add to your student debt. There are a wide range of scholarships to apply for. Some are easy to apply to – enter for a chance to win. Others are available from your college, private and professional donors. You can also see what federal student aid is available to you in the form of a Pell Grant. For the year 2019 – 2020, the max Pell Grant award is $6,195.

7. Buy and sell used and gently worn books
Some courses use the same textbooks from year to year. When possible, buy (then sell) used and gently worn books. According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), 44% of students rent course materials too. You may also be able to download a cheaper digital version of your book. About 22% of students download free content and this trend is on the rise.

8. Avoid Credit Card Debt
If you are taking out a student loan, the thing to avoid is more debt. Set a budget and try to abide by it.

9. See if you qualify for a tuition waiver
Many states and schools grant tuition waivers. These tend to be for groups such as veterans, teachers, or dependents of employees.

10. Work-Study  
Many colleges have work study programs that pay students’ wages in part time jobs. You might be able to do this as a full-time student, or study part time. In 2017, another NCES study found that 81% of part time undergrads help jobs while attending college. Yes, it does stretch the time to earn a degree over a longer period. But on the other hand, you would earn some money while gaining experience.

11. Check if you can get credit for experience
Adults returning to school and military students may qualify for credit based on prior learning, training or experience. By having fewer credits to pay for may bring college tuition down.

12. Graduate Faster in Less than 4 years
Some students attend summer school and pile on the credits to quicken the path to graduation. This can help you enter the job market to start earning. Also it can save you money on extra costs like housing, supplies etc. 

Is College Worth This Expense? 

Now that you know how much it might cost you to attend college, the other thing to look at are possible benefits. Here are three popular reasons to earn a college degree.

College Grads tend to Earn More in their Lifetime

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), "the more you learn, the more you earn". The BLS.gov did a study that looked at average weekly earnings at each degree level. Associate, bachelor's, master's and professional / doctorate degrees. They found lifetime earnings went up with each level of education.

Degree Level

Average Weekly Earnings

Doctorate

$1,743

Professional Degree

$1,836

Master’s Degree

$1,401

Bachelor’s Degree

$1,173

Associate Degree

$836

High School Diploma

$712

For some Careers You Need a College Degree or Beyond

According to BLS.gov, in 2016, 37% of occupations called for a college degree. Of these, 21% of jobs need a bachelor’s degree. These include areas like teaching, management, engineering, and computer related jobs.
There are also jobs where you need a master’s, PhD or professional degree. A few are Nurse Practitioner, Physical Therapist and Lawyer. So, depending on your career goals, you may need to go to college and grad school to be able to pursue your chosen path.

The Job Forecasts for People with a College Degree are Brightest

Having a college degree is no guarantee you will get a job. But jobs that call for a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate are among the fastest growing according to one BLS.gov study. Average growth rates to 2024 are 8.2%, 13.8%, and 12.2%.

Among people age 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or higher, the unemployment rate was 2% in January 2020. The overall national unemployment rate is 3.6%.