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10 Most, Least Expensive Private Colleges

With runaway tuition, families are paying significantly more now than they were in prior decades. U.S. News data shows that tuition and fees for the 2023-2024 school year cost an average of about $42,200 at ranked private schools. Average tuition for out-of-state students attending ranked public colleges comes to about $24,000 , and average in-state tuition at public institutions is about $10,700.

Some college officials point to financial struggles as one of the most common reasons students drop out.

Over the last 20 years the average tuition at private National Universities – research-oriented schools that offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees – has increased by about 132%, or about 40% when adjusted for inflation. As tuition continues to climb, families must consider what they can afford without overburdening students with debt that may take years to pay off. Students and parents would be well served to understand tuition costs and factor those into their college search.

U.S. News collected tuition data as part of an annual survey sent to colleges in the spring and summer of 2023. Among the findings from that data is that of the 611 ranked private colleges that provided their 2023-2024 tuition and fees, nearly 180 have sticker prices of more than $50,000 for the year. Only 21 private colleges reported annual tuition and fees under $20,000.

Kenyon College in Ohio, which reported tuition and fees for the 2023-2024 school year of $69,330, was the most expensive school. Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania was second, with reported tuition and fees of $68,380.

Five of the 10 most expensive schools are ranked in the top 30 in their respective categories. Amherst College in Massachusetts is the highest ranked at No. 2 among all National Liberal Arts Colleges, schools that emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees across liberal arts fields. Other expensive, high-ranked schools in that category are Vassar College in New York (tied for No. 16) and Haverford College in Pennsylvania (tied for No. 21). Brown University in Rhode Island (tied for No. 9) and the University of Southern California (tied for No. 28) are the highest ranked National Universities.

The majority of the 10 private colleges with the highest tuition and fee costs are on the East Coast, with Massachusetts claiming three: Tufts UniversityBoston College and Amherst.

Tuition and fees at these 10 colleges average nearly $68,000, per U.S. News data. Tuition costs don’t factor into the overall ranking methodology, although the calculations do assess each school’s typical average accumulated federal loan debt among borrowers.

While these tuition numbers may be eye-popping, families should understand that sticker prices aren’t always what they’ll end up paying once institutional grants and scholarships are applied.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the average cost among the 10 least expensive ranked private colleges is about $13,700, per U.S. News data.

Four of the private colleges reporting the lowest tuition rates are Regional Universities, schools that offer bachelor’s degrees, some master’s programs and limited options at the doctoral level. Three are Regional Colleges, institutions that focus on undergraduate education but award fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts fields. The remaining three are National Liberal Arts Colleges.

The 10 least expensive private colleges are all located east of the Mississippi River.

Students looking to find the lowest price tag will have to travel to the Caribbean, where Universidad Politecnica de Puerto Rico reported tuition and fees of about $9,100. The school is ranked within the 123-135 range among Regional Universities (South) and is the only one with a price tag under $10,000.

Within the contiguous U.S., Tougaloo College in Mississippi, ranked No. 181 among National Liberal Arts Colleges, is the least expensive, reporting tuition and fees of $11,398. Lane College in Tennessee offers the next lowest price, with reported tuition and fees of $11,790.

The tables below show the schools across the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico that charge the most and least tuition and fees in 2023-2024, as reported to U.S. News. Unranked schools, which didn’t meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, weren’t considered for this report. Additionally, there were 254 ranked schools that didn’t respond to the U.S. News survey and 69 schools that didn’t answer the tuition and fees question that were also not included.

Source: U.S.News