10 most expensive places to go to college

10 most expensive places to go to college

Getting your bachelors degree can be a lucrative endeavor, but often it doesn’t come cheap.

The total annual cost for tuition and mandatory fees at 4-year U.S. colleges and universities has more than tripled in the last 60 years, from an average $5,369 per year in 1963 (inflation-adjusted) to $17,709 in 2023, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

And tuition isn’t the only cost. Students need books and supplies like computers, as well as food and housing.

Over four years, the total bill may be $500,000 or more, as it is estimated to be at Columbia University, according to Self Financial. 

A large portion of that total comes from the cost of attendance itself, which Columbia lists at $89,587 for tuition, housing and other fees for the 2023-24 school year.

While Columbia’s sticker price includes on-campus housing and a meal plan, students who choose to live off-campus, or simply participate in life in the notoriously expensive city, can easily rack up extra expenses.

Self Financial looked at all the colleges and universities listed in the U.S. News & World Report’s national college rankings to determine the costliest schools at which to earn your bachelor’s.

The fintech firm factored in tuition and fees for each school along with cost of living data like average food spending from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and average local rent and other self-reported living expenses data collected by Numbeo. 

These are the 10 schools with the highest total cost for four years.

1. Columbia University—New York

Total cost: $514,442

2. New York University—New York

Total cost: $497,402

3. Georgetown University—Washington, D.C.

Total cost: $472,817

4. Harvard University—Cambridge, Massachusetts

Total cost: $472,027

5. California Institute of Technology—Pasadena, California

Total cost: $458,330

6. University of Southern California—Los Angeles

Total cost: $457,650

7. University of Chicago—Chicago

Total cost: $455,257

8. George Washington University—Washington, D.C.

Total cost: $454,377

9. Yale UniversityNew Haven, Connecticut

Total cost: $451,516

10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology—Cambridge, Massachusetts

Total cost: $441,948

All of the 10 most expensive schools Self Financial identified are private, which makes sense, given that those institutions typically charge higher tuition than public schools. But private colleges often offer generous financial aid and scholarships packages so your cost to attend may even be lower than at a public university.

Students receiving financial aid at Harvard, for example, pay an average $19,500 per year, compared with students at the public University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who pay $21,846 a year, according to the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

Your actual cost of attendance can vary greatly depending on the school you attend, what financial aid you may qualify for and a variety of other choices you’ll make, like living on campus, having a car, where you shop for books, and more. 

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