What Is The Most Expensive College In The U.S.?

By Doug Norrie | Published

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most expensive college in the us

Going to college or university these days isn’t what it used to be. Not by a long shot. While it was never exactly cheap to attend institutions of higher learning, prices in recent years have taken this to a whole new level. The cost of going to college has risen so dramatically and so quickly, that many are questioning whether the prospect of going to college is even worth it. Is college a scam? In some ways, it’s starting to feel that way. And it makes the most expensive college in the U.S. list look rather imposing. 

But there are clearly major advantages to attending college and earning a degree, making many of the top colleges and institutions still very expensive. 


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The most expensive colleges are going to have some eye-popping tuition, housing costs, and fees associated with them. Frankly, some of them are hard to look at and keep a straight face. When it’s all said and done for some of these schools, you are going to be looking at a bill that could run the cost of a small (or big) house. That’s the name of the secondary education game right now. 

But it isn’t just the most expensive college in the U.S. that is running hefty bills right now. No, it’s really across the board with colleges in the United States, something that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. On average, an out-of-state private school costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $43,755. And an in-state public school can cost $11,631.

Compare that to a couple of decades ago when the prices were $17,938 for a private college and $3,738 for an in-state school. That’s ranging around a 250% increase. You thought inflation was bad just in the general market? Try college on for size and see how those prices are just going parabolic.

It makes sense why people are becoming increasingly frustrated with these costs. It’s not just the most expensive college in the U.S. that is pricing many out of the market, or opening up the possibility of almost crippling student loan debt. In that way, for many seem to think college could resemble a lose-lose venture depending on the chosen major.


So if these are the average prices, then what can the most expensive college in the U.S. look like in terms of cost? The prices, at times, are a bit to pin down because schools are always changing prices and fees. And also, it’s worth noting that for many students the reported cost of a school isn’t what folks ultimately pay. There are scholarships and financial aid available to many which greatly reduce the cost when it’s all said and done. Taking information from a variety of sources, it would appear these are the five most expensive colleges in the US right now.

*Note, prices for the most expensive college in the U.S. are averages taken from NCES, US Department of Education, and College Navigator to pinpoint some of the costs.

University Of Chicago The most expensive college in the U.S.

most expensive college in the U.S.

Cost – $79,063

Location – Chicago, IL

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Enrollment – 14,467

The most expensive college in the U.S. is at a price brought to by a group of economists. The University of Chicago ranks as the country’s most expensive college or university. Paying this amount (if going at full rate) would put make you an alumnus along with 92 Nobel Prize winners and 25 Pulitzer Prize winners, among many others. It’s one of the most prestigious institutions out there and it will definitely cost.


Northwestern University 

Cost – $78,526

Location – Evanston, IL

Enrollment – 21,000

The second most expensive college in the U.S. keeps it in the state of Illinois. Northwestern doesn’t rank too far behind the University of Chicago in terms of price and these schools could run you more than $300k if you stick it out without any financial help for all four years. Of course, it’s consistently ranked among the best academic institutions in the country.

University of Pennsylvania 

Cost – $78,707

Location – Philadelphia, PA

Number of Students – 24,806

The first of the Ivy League schools in this group and it was founded by Benjamin Franklin back in 1740. This is the third-most expensive college in the U.S. It continues as a major research university and also includes the Wharton Business school. 

University of Southern California 

Cost – $78,494

Location – Los Angeles, CA

Enrollment – 44,000

Let’s head out to sunny California and take a look at USC, located in the heart of Los Angeles. In terms of size, this one is the biggest of the top five and has the best athletic programs as well. But it’s still among the most respected universities out there with a stellar academic reputation.

Brown University

Cost – $78,390

Location – Providence, RI

Enrollment – 8,848

Brown is another on the Ivy League list and is known for its sciences. The school is also the smallest of the top five with fewer than 10,000 students on campus. This just goes to show that in terms of overall price, the size of the school can vary. 

Honorable mentions

There are some close runners up here on the expensive college list and it continues to paint a picture of a very difficult landscape in higher education. Dartmouth College is sitting at $78,269 and Amherst is not far behind at $78,067

Again, while these college and university prices don’t represent what the average student pays while attending, they do at least lend significant credence to what folks paint as the problem with higher education these days. This is what the schools would *like* to charge all things being equal

What happens in the coming years with these expensive colleges remains to be seen. Any hope of a college bubble popping in the short-term simply haven’t come to fruition. And there’s a chance we see the prices climb higher still.