Top 5 Most Expensive Public Colleges


You’ve read about the most expensive private colleges in the country, and you probably weren’t as surprised as you thought you would be.

They were private colleges after all, right? But did you also know that there are public colleges with just as expensive tuitions and cost of attendance?

There are many reasons for a public college to require expensive payment, but you can be sure that the high amount you’re paying also means quality education at a school with a colorful history.

These colleges also offer expertise in specialized areas and have likely established old, but still influential, ties with other long-standing colleges in the country and the world.

The rates are taken from the most recent update on each colleges’ websites, but of course, some rates will depend on the academic program or degree as well as living on campus or off campus.

Here are the top 5 most expensive public colleges in the United States

Most Expensive Public Colleges

#1 College of William and Mary


First on the list is William and Mary College as the most expensive public college- photo source:

Location: Williamsburg, Virginia

Student Population: 8,484

In-State Cost of Attendance: $35,996

Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $57,436

The College of William and Mary is an old college, as it was founded in 1693. In fact, it is the second oldest in the country (right after Harvard University).

It is one of the 9 colonial colleges in the country, and has served many students who went on to become president of the United States, including the first president, George Washington.

It is named after King William and Queen Mary.

Although not an Ivy League school like many of the other colonial colleges, the College of William and Mary is recognized as one of the Public Ivy schools because of its quality education.

It’s not a large school, but it has strong undergraduate programs in science and arts.

Students studying at the College of William and Mary also have a chance to earn joint degrees in engineering at Columbia University and in liberal arts at the University of St. Andrews

(yes, the one in Scotland where Prince William went and met his future wife Kate Middleton), so it’s understandable why this college is a bit more expensive than your usual public school.

The college has 4 schools:

  • Arts and sciences
  • Business
  • Education
  • Law
  • Marine science

The school also has a low admission rate (only around 30%).

#2 Colorado School of Mines


#2 most expensive public college is Colorado School of Mines – image source:

Location: Golden, Colorado

Student Population: 4,608

In-State Cost of Attendance: $32,684

Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $51,014

You might be wondering why the Colorado School of Mines cost of attendance is almost as expensive as a private college.

Well the reason lies in the fact that CSM is a special school for engineering and applied science.

The most recent QS world university ranking actually placed CMS as the top college in Mineral and Mining Engineering (MIT came in second, and Stanford University as third) these are tough colleges to beat!

Golden City, Colorado, where the school is located, was a hotspot for miners.

A bishop from Massachusetts thought to open a college, with a special institute for mining.

In 1870, the bishop established Jarvis Hall Collegiate School. In 1873, the School of Mines officially opened.

It then became a state college when Colorado became an official state.

Although CSM has quite an expensive tuition now, did you know that tuition was originally free for Colorado residents?

The high cost of attendance is justifiable, though, as the school offers amazing centers for geology and other applied sciences.

CSM runs the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, and hosts the Colorado State Science Olympiad.

Students at CSM can study academic programs in:

  • Chemistry
  • Metallurgy
  • Applied math and statistics
  • Mechanical engineering
  • More

Students can also minor in literature, humanitarian engineering, and others.

#3 Pennsylvania State University-University Park


#3 on list public college that is expensive to attend is Pennsylvania State University-park – photo source:

Location: State College, Pennsylvania

Student Population: 46,800

In-State Cost of Attendance: $29,000 – $32,000

Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $43,000 – $46,000

Penn State (not to be confused with the Ivy League UPenn) is a state university with several campuses across the state.

Its campus at University Park is its main or flagship school. It’s also one of the largest universities in the country by student population.

Pennsylvania State University was first founded as Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania in 1855.

More than a decade later, the school became the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. The following year, the state of Pennsylvania chose this college to be its sole land-grant college.

The school was renamed Pennsylvania State College, then was eventually able to acquire university status.

The campus at University Park is actually the most selective college in the state (with an admittance rate of only 22%).

The reason for the college’s strict admission is that many students choose University Park as their first choice among Penn State’s campuses.

University Park has several colleges in these areas of study:

  • Agricultural science
  • Arts and architecture
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Earth science
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Health and human development
  • Information science
  • Liberal arts
  • Science
  • Nursing

#4 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus


University of Pittsburgh ranks #4 on the list of expensive public college to attend- image source:

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Student Population: 28,617

In-State Cost of Attendance: $17,000 – $30,000

Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $28,000 – $36,000

The University of Pittsburgh (or sometimes called the Pitt) has 17 undergraduate and graduate schools under its administration in the Pittsburgh campus

(There are four campuses spread around Western Pennsylvania)

Although now a state university, the Pitt used to be a private college.

It was founded after the American Revolutionary War, and was called Pittsburg Academy in 1787, making it one of the oldest colleges in the country.

Then, the college was renamed to Western University of Pennsylvania, when it was intended to be the sister school of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school.

Unfortunately, the school witnessed several misfortunes (like catching fire).

It was finally called University of Pittsburgh in 1908, after several changes in location.

It became part of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education in 1966, but although it is recognized as a public school, it is only “state-related”, meaning it gets public funding and reduced tuition, but it operates independently.

In fact, when the college was still new, the state pressured it to abandon its liberal education for the state’s own curriculum.

The college refused and nearly went bankrupt, but didn’t let go of their educational system.

Talk about rebellious.

#5 Maine Maritime Academy


Last on the list is Maine Maritime Academy a public college that is not cheap to attend- photo source:

Location: Castine, Maine

Student Population: 950

In-State Cost of Attendance: $10,050 – $15,080 (depends on your state)

Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $23,130

The Maine Maritime Academy is a public college that focuses on maritime or nautical training.

It’s one of only two colleges with a Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps unit.

Money Magazine recently ranked it No. 31 among the best public colleges across the entire United States.

Students are enrolled in degrees centered on engineering, management, science, and transportation.

Maine has always been a busy and profitable place for shipbuilders. In fact, the first English ship in America was built in Maine.

Many of the residents started to seek jobs and businesses in building and working on ships.

It was inevitable then that in the 1930s, the state proposed a specialized school dedicated to nautical training. It was in 1941 that the Maine Maritime Academy was built.

The school now offers only 2 undergraduate degrees, but students can major in several fields:

  • Engineering
  • International business and logistics
  • Marine science
  • Marine transportation


Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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