College is a significant financial investment. The College Board reported that an in-state public college’s average annual budget was $27,330, and a private college’s average annual budget was $55,800 for the 2023-2024 academic year. These are averages, but how much do the most expensive colleges in the United States cost? What are the Most Expensive Colleges in the US?
Do you want to know which colleges are the most expensive in the world? Are you planning on going to any of these events? If that’s the case, good luck because you’re going to need some serious cash! The top 20 most expensive colleges in the world are listed below. I’ll explain why they’re so expensive first and then show you how to go regardless of your financial situation.
Why Are These Colleges in the United States So Expensive?
All of the schools on our list are private schools. Although these colleges are not government-funded, many of their students receive federal and state aid. Furthermore, the majority of these schools are regarded as elite, selective institutions. The cost per student is significantly higher because they are attempting to provide the same or better amenities (without any government aid) as large public universities (with much smaller student bodies). Small liberal arts colleges make up the majority of the schools on this list.
You’ll notice that some elite private schools didn’t make the cut right away, but they aren’t far behind. While Harvard did not make our list, its total price tag of $75,891 is still quite high. Some popular schools may be less expensive because their student bodies are larger and their endowments are significantly larger. College tuition is, unfortunately, continuing to rise. There are various reasons for these rising costs, including increased demand for higher education and the theory that tuition increases are caused by financial aid.
How Did We Come Up With This List of the Most Expensive Colleges?
We compared the total costs of US colleges to come up with the list below. Tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses make up the total cost. We used on-campus housing costs for room and board. All students must pay fees, which do not include optional fees such as student health insurance or orientation fees.
All total costs were taken from College Navigator for the 2020-2021 school year (part of the National Center for Education Statistics).
What Is the Most Expensive University in The United States?
The majority of the colleges on this list are located in the greater Los Angeles area or in the Northeast. The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, and Tulane University are notable exceptions. All of the schools are private colleges with a high admissions rate. Furthermore, the price difference between #1 and #51 is not significant in terms of the total cost. The most expensive college on the list (the University of Chicago) charges $81,531 per year, while Williams College charges $66,540.
Again, we’re not looking at which colleges have the most expensive college tuition; rather, we’re looking at which schools have the most expensive overall costs (including tuition and room and board, fees, and supplies). This list should give you a good idea of the cost of the most expensive colleges in the United States. The colleges are listed in order of cost from the most expensive to the least expensive.
Why Are Some of the Most Expensive Colleges Still Affordable?
It’s important to keep in mind that these total costs only include the sticker prices. Because of financial aid and scholarships, the vast majority of students at most of these institutions pay significantly less. Many of these institutions offer generous financial aid packages. Typically, they will attempt to meet each student’s demonstrated financial need. The average need-based scholarship or grant award at Columbia (#2 on the list) is $60,608. The average cost of attendance drops to around $20,000 as a result.
Many of the schools on the list, in fact, will cover your entire demonstrated financial need. If you’re still unsure whether you’ll be able to afford one of the most expensive colleges but want to go anyway (assuming you’re accepted! ), apply for as many scholarships as you can. I strongly advise you to look into these full-ride scholarships.
The World’s 20 Most Expensive Colleges
The following list of colleges and figures was compiled and rounded up from various online sources, including Top Universities and The Street & Gazette Review. These are the world’s top 20 most expensive colleges:
1. UCL (University College London), UK
If you’re looking for a good university in the United Kingdom, UCL could be a good choice. UCL was founded in 1826 and offers a wide range of exceptional courses and facilities to both domestic and international students. The university’s main campus is in London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood, and it has around 41,500 students and 15,100 employees. Yes, it is one of the most expensive colleges in the world; however, bursaries and scholarships are available!
2. University of Melbourne, Australia
The University of Melbourne is a public research university in Melbourne, Australia, that was founded in 1853. It is Australia’s second-oldest university, as well as Victoria’s oldest. Just north of the CBD, Parkville is where the main campus is located. The remaining campuses are spread out across Victoria. It is unlike any other Australian university in that it offers nine generalized three-year degrees rather than traditional specialized undergraduate degrees.
3. University of Cambridge, UK
The university was founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231, making it the second-oldest in the English-speaking world. It is also the fourth-oldest surviving university in the world. It’s no surprise that one of the world’s most prestigious and well-recognized universities charges a premium for admission. For students who can meet their academic standards, however, there are programs and scholarships available.
4. Harvard University, US
As the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning, Harvard University charges a hefty fee to attend. Harvard is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that is part of the Ivy League. There are approximately 6,700 undergraduate students and 15,250 postgraduate students enrolled. The college was founded in 1636 and was given the name Harvard after its first benefactor, a clergyman named John Harvard. Its reputation remains unblemished, as it is consistently ranked among the best universities in the world.
4. Imperial College London, UK
Medicine, STEM, and FAME subjects are among Imperial College London’s specialties. The university’s main campus is in South Kensington, London, United Kingdom. It also has a White City innovation campus, a Silwood Park research center, and teaching hospitals strewn about the city. The QS World University Rankings was ranked 8th in the world in 2018, with a total consolidated income of £1,033.0 million!
5. Stanford University, US
This has to be one of the world’s most well-known and respected universities. Stanford University, located in Stanford, California, is a private research university. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the most expensive colleges on our list, given its wealth, academic strength, and proximity to Silicon Valley. Year after year, Stanford is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world.
6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech), US
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university in Pasadena, California. Caltech, which is frequently ranked among the top ten universities in the world, has six academic divisions with a strong focus on science and engineering. Caltech provides financial aid to a small number of students who qualify. Caltech graduates have a median early career salary of $83,400 and a mid-career salary of $143,100.
7. Duke University, US
In 1838, Methodists and Quakers founded Trinity Methodist Church, which later moved to Durham. Duke’s campus is vast, spanning 8,600 acres and divided into three contiguous sub-campuses. Along with Harvard University and Yale University, Duke University has been named the best college for graduate outcomes for several years in a row.
8. University of Southern California, US
With the distinction of being California’s oldest private research university, USC will not leave you with much money after you finish your studies. There is 27,500 graduate, and professional students enrolled in various programs at the university. You can study business, law, engineering, social work, occupational therapy, pharmacy, and medicine at USC. In 2019, more than 67,000 students applied for undergraduate classes, with only 11 percent being accepted.
9. Franklin and Marshall College, US
Franklin & Marshall College, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a private liberal art residential college. The college, which was founded in 1787, has approximately 2,800 students and 175 full-time faculty members. Approximately 55% of Franklin & Marshall’s undergrads receive need-based financial aid. It was the country’s first bilingual college, as well as the country’s first coeducational institution.
10. Landmark College, US
This university is not like the rest of the world’s most expensive universities. It was created with students with attention disorders, learning disabilities, and other special needs in mind. Landmark has a variety of courses to choose from. Students can earn a bachelor’s or associate’s degree as an undergraduate. Psychology, computer science, liberal studies, and studio art are among the bachelor’s degree courses.
Business studies, liberal studies, computer science, and life sciences are among the associate programs available. Landmark also provides distance learning opportunities through online courses.
11. Trinity College, US
It has a total undergraduate population of about 2,400 students and a 34 percent acceptance rate. Trinity College, founded in 1823, is one of the country’s oldest liberal arts colleges. The college, which is located in Hartford, Connecticut, was founded as a rival to Yale.
12. Vassar College, US
Vassar is the 7th most expensive college on our list, with tuition fees of just under $57,000. According to News, it is the 11th best national liberal arts school in the United States. Furthermore, it currently has 2,350 undergraduate students and a 24 percent acceptance rate. The liberal arts college is one of the Seven Sisters, a group of northeastern colleges that were previously all women’s colleges.
13. University of Chicago, US
The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller and the American Baptist Education Society. The University has always been known for being a powerful institution. The school has a large number of Nobel Laureates who have either worked or graduated from it. The college also employs a large number of people in the community. With 16,000 administrative employees, it is one of Chicago’s largest employers.
14. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland
ETH Zürich is a Swiss university that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Swiss Federal Government established it in 1854. Its goal was to educate scientists and engineers while serving as a national science and technology center. The university is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, and it is ranked seventh in the QS World University Rankings.
16. University of Oxford, UK
The University of Oxford is the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation and one of the oldest universities on our list. Oxford University has a reputation for producing some of the best minds in the United Kingdom, similar to the standards set by Cambridge University. The University earned £2.237 billion in total revenue in 2018 and was ranked 5th in the QS World University Rankings in 2019.
17. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US
It was founded in response to the United States’ growing industrialization and focuses on applied science and engineering laboratory instruction. Since then, the college has played an important role in the advancement of many fields of engineering, modern science, and mathematics. MIT is well known for its academic excellence and innovation around the world. MIT has 93 Nobel Laureates and 26 Turing Award winners among its alumni. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the most expensive universities in the world!
18. New York University, US
NYU, a well-known college in New York, is another extremely expensive college. New York University, founded in 1830, was one of the first colleges to admit students based on their academic ability rather than their social connections. It is one of the most international universities in the world, with campuses in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. This college is not only one of the best in the world, but it’s also one of the most expensive!
19. Columbia University, US
This college, which was founded in 1754, existed long before NYU established itself in the Big Apple. Columbia University is one of the United States’ nine Colonial Colleges, a group of universities founded prior to the American Revolution. Currently, the college has 6,162 undergraduate students enrolled, with a 6% acceptance rate for prospective students. It also has Ivy League status and one of the most selective acceptance rates in the world, at 5.5 percent.
20. Harvey Mudd College, US
So, what makes Harvey Mudd the world’s most expensive college? It has a lot to do with the fact that it produces the second-highest number of STEM PhDs in the country, and Forbes ranked it as the 18th best school in the country! In addition, U.S. News named its undergraduate engineering program, which is tied with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, as the best in the country. Its primary focus is on STEM majors such as math, science, engineering, and information technology. Harvey Seeley Mudd, a mining engineer, was the inspiration for the college’s name and funding.
21. Johns Hopkins University – Fee: $73,980
Johns Hopkins University is a public research university in Baltimore, Maryland. On our list of the ten most expensive universities in the world, Johns Hopkins University is the second most expensive. The University of Baltimore is a private academic institution in Baltimore, Maryland. The institution was founded in 1876 and named after its first benefactor, Johns Hopkins, an American merchant, abolitionist, and philanthropist.
Aspirants can receive financial aid from Johns Hopkins University in the form of Need-Based and Merit-Based Awards. The average need-based scholarship or grant for first-year students is approximately $52,523.
22. Parsons School of Design – Fee: $67,266
Parsons School of Design is a design school in New York City. Parsons School of Design is the world’s third most expensive university. This is a private art and design college in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan, New York City. It is considered local arts and design college and one of the New School’s five colleges. Some funding comes from the university, while others from government and private sources. Merit-based financial aid is another option (scholarships for academic or creative ability). The school also provides need-based financial aid (scholarships as documented on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA).
23. Dartmouth College – Fees: $67,044
Dartmouth College is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth College is the fourth most expensive university in the world. Eleazar Wheelock founded it in 1769, making it the ninth-oldest higher education institution in the United States and one of the nine colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Aspirants can receive financial aid from Dartmouth College. The Dartmouth scholarship promises to cover the total cost of tuition with typical assets for families earning $100,000 or less. Hanover, New Hampshire’s Ivy League, United States of America Research University is a private institution.
24. Claremont McKenna University – Fees: $64,325
Claremont McKenna College is a private university in Claremont, California. This is the world’s tenth most expensive university. Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is a California-based private liberal arts college. Its curriculum focuses on government, economics, public affairs, finance, and international relations. The Claremont Colleges consortium includes CMC. CMC began as a men’s college in 1946 and became a coeducational institution in 1976. Although the college’s primary focus is undergraduate education, it established the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance in 2007, which offers a master’s degree in finance.
25. Sarah Lawrence College – Fees: $65,630
Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in New York. Sarah Lawrence College, founded in 1926, ranks seventh on our list of the world’s most expensive universities. The college has also provided quality education to women in the arts and humanities. This college was founded by William Duzer Lawrence, a real estate mogul. He established the school on his Westchester estate and named it after Sarah’s wife. This college has produced a number of female leaders, innovators, and professionals in various fields.
26. Wesleyan University – Fees: $65,443
In Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University is a private university that ranks eighth on the list of the world’s most expensive universities. Only males were admitted to the now-secular university founded in 1831. Under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Kirche and with the support of prominent Middletown residents, it was the first higher education institution to be named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
The college became fully co-educational in 1970 after accepting women as candidates from 1872 to 1909; the college’s reversal in accepting women led to the founding of Connecticut College in 1912. Wesleyan is one of the “little three” Liberal Arts Colleges, competing in the NESCAC alongside Amherst and Williams Colleges.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the world’s 20 most expensive universities. They’re certainly pricey, but it all depends on how much value you get. They all have a good reputation and adhere to the highest educational standards, despite their high cost. So, if you’re thinking about going, or if you want to send your kids, it could be some of the best money you’ll ever spend!
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