The 51 Most Expensive Colleges in the United States


College is a costly investment. For the 2020-21 academic year, the

College Board

reported that the average annual budget was $25,890 for an in-state public college and $52,500 for a private college. These are the averages, but just how much are the most expensive colleges in the US? Which ones have the most expensive college tuition?


I’ll give you a list of the 51 most expensive colleges in the US

. I’ll first explain why they’re so pricey and then go over how you can attend one regardless of your financial situation.

Why Are These US Colleges So Expensive?

All the schools on our list below are

private institutions

. These colleges are not subsidized by the government, but many of their students are on federal and state aid.

Also, most of these schools are


elite, selective institutions

. Because they’re trying to offer the same or better amenities (without any government aid) as those provided by large public universities (and with much smaller student bodies),

the cost per student is significantly higher. Many of the schools on this list are small liberal arts colleges.

You might notice right away that some elite private schools didn’t make the cut, but they’re not too far behind. For example, while Harvard didn’t make our list, it still has a

very high total price tag of $73,800.

Possible reasons that some popular schools are somewhat less expensive is that

they have larger student bodies and substantially bigger endowments



college tuition continues to rise

. There are

many explanations for these rising costs

, such as the increased demand for higher education and the theory that financial aid causes tuition hikes.

How We Created This List of the Most Expensive Colleges

To come up with the list below, we compared the total costs of US colleges.

The total cost is the sum of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses.

For room and board, we used costs for on-campus housing. Fees are mandated for all students and do not cover optional fees, such as student health insurance costs or orientation fees.

All total costs are for the 2019-20 school year and were taken from

College Navigator

(part of the National Center for Education Statistics).

The 51 Most Expensive Colleges in the US

What is the most expensive college in the US? Most of the colleges that made the list below are in

the greater Los Angeles area or Northeast

. Some notable exceptions are the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Oberlin, and Tulane. All of the schools are

selective private colleges


In addition, the difference in price between #1 and #51 is not that substantial relative to total cost. The most expensive college on this list (University of Chicago) costs


annually, whereas the 51st (Stanford University) costs


Again, we are not looking at which institutions have the most expensive college tuition, but rather

which schools have the highest overall cost

(which includes tuition as well as room and board, fees, and supplies).

This list should provide you with a clear idea of the price range for the most expensive colleges in the US. Colleges are arranged in order of most expensive to least expensive.



Total Cost (2019-20)

University of Chicago
Chicago, IL $81,531

Columbia University
New York, NY $79,752

Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA $79,539

Northwestern University
Evanston, IL $78,654

Barnard College
New York, NY $78,044

Scripps College
Claremont, CA $77,588

Brown University
Providence, RI $77,490

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA $77,459

Landmark College
Putney, VT $77,400

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA $77,264

Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH $77,152

Oberlin College
Oberlin, OH $77,124

Duke University
Durham, NC $77,029

Washington University in St. Louis
Saint Louis, MO $76,910

Fordham University
Bronx, NY $76,891

Trinity College
Hartford, CT $76,850

Amherst College
Amherst, MA $76,750

Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX $76,710

Yale University
New Haven, CT $76,645

Occidental College
Los Angeles, CA $76,600

Claremont McKenna College
Claremont, CA $76,475

Haverford College
Haverford, PA $76,384

Georgetown University
Washington, DC $76,280

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY $76,258

Tufts University
Medford, MA $76,200

Brandeis University
Waltham, MA $76,141

Bennington College
Bennington, VT $75,950

Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA $75,886

Pitzer College
Claremont, CA $75,850

Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT $75,723

Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster, PA $75,720

Reed College
Portland, OR $75,671

New York University
New York, NY $75,502

Bucknell University
Lewisburg, PA $75,400

Pepperdine University
Malibu, CA $75,312

Williams College
Williamstown, MA $75,250

Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY $75,240

Wellesley College
Wellesley, MA $75,198

University of Rochester
Rochester, NY $75,190

Smith College
Northampton, MA $75,169

Chapman University
Orange, CA $75,112

Colgate University
Hamilton, NY $75,015

Boston University
Boston, MA $75,002

Tulane University
New Orleans, LA $74,884

Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA $74,829

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA $74,763

Colorado College
Colorado Springs, CO $74,760

Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, NY $74,740

Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY $74,712

Connecticut College
New London, CT $74,590

Stanford University
Stanford, CA $74,570

Why Many of the Most Expensive Colleges Are Still Accessible

It’s important to remember that these total costs are just the listed sticker prices. At most of these institutions,

the vast majority of students are paying significantly less because of financial aid and scholarships


Many of these schools have very generous financial aid programs. Typically, they’ll try to meet the demonstrated financial need of each individual student.

At Columbia (#2 on the list),

the average need-based scholarship or grant award is $60,566


This cuts the average cost of attendance way down to around $20,000.

In fact, many of the schools on the list

will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need


If you’re still not sure whether you’ll be able to afford one of the most expensive colleges but


want the option to go (should you get accepted to one!),

plan to

apply for as many scholarships as possible

. I strongly suggest looking at

these full-ride scholarships

as well.


What’s Next?

Learn more about

how much colleges really cost


If you need help financing your education, you might want to check out this post about the

work study program


All the most expensive colleges listed above are private.

But what exactly are

the differences between public and private colleges


Get the answers in our expert guide!

You know what the most expensive colleges are—but what about the cheapest?

Learn all about the most affordable colleges in the US here


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