15 Most Expensive Private Colleges


People around the world spend thousands to get a higher education degree.

Others make use of loans (which sadly amounts to more than a trillion dollars this year), scholarships, and even college grants (which you can apply for, based on financial capacity).

University rankings constantly put US colleges and universities at the top of the list, which draws in international students from India, China, Spain, and more.

The lure and promise of graduating from colleges like the Ivy League schools propel students and their parents to spend a lot of money on tertiary education.

A study conducted for the Sallie Mae, a loan company for college students, revealed that there was a rise in how much parents spent for their children’s college education in 2014-2015. It was a 16% increase.

Even now, parents still view university education as vital for financial stability and lifetime happiness.

While many students are busy applying for grants and loans, and others are hanging onto their scholarships, it doesn’t mean that only affordable colleges get all the students.

A higher tuition fee still carries with it a promise of quality education, better facilities, and more conducive classroom environment.

If you’re wondering which colleges in the United States really are more expensive, below is a list of the top 15.

Side Note Here: Most of the tuition fees listed below also include living on campus. Keep in mind tuition costs may be more depending on the academic program. There also may be other fees such as health care, orientation, student activity fees, books & supplies, that the colleges may or may not include in their tuition fees.

If you think the number one spot is an Ivy League school, think again….

Harvey Mudd College: $69,434

Tuition Harvey Mudd College

source: courtesy Harvey Mudd College

Located in Claremont, California, Harvey Mudd College is, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education 2015 – 2016 survey data, the most expensive higher education school in the entire country.


This is a liberal arts college that was established in 1955, and is part of the adjoining group of colleges in Claremont that stand next to each other.

It shares some facilities like dining hall, libraries, health services, and even security with the other Claremont colleges, but has its own staff, board of trustees, website, and admission process.

Harvey Mudd College was named after Harvey Seeley Mudd, whose funds were used to open the school. HMC is well-known for its sciences and engineering program.

The school was the first undergraduate-only American college to win in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in 1997. HMC continued to win titles in the following years since.

The college offers financial aid, with 76% of the student body receiving help in paying for their education.

Columbia University: $65,860

Tuition Columbia University

Image source: Columbia.edu

Columbia University (formerly King’s College) is located in New York City, New York, and is one of the Ivy League Schools one of the Ivy League schools.

Founded in 1754, it’s the oldest academic institution of higher education in the state of New York.

As one of the oldest colleges in the country, founded before the independence, Columbia has many famous alumni throughout history, including five Founding Fathers, more than 20 actors and billionaires, and some presidents of the United States.

In the 2016 CWUR World University Ranking, Columbia was No. 6, and second only to MIT in terms of patents made.

The most recent US News and World Reports survey, meanwhile, ranked the school 4th in the entire country.

It was also 15th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and 9th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016, delivered by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, and is recognized globally.

New York University: $65,860


Image source: natcom.org

NYU is, of course, located in New York City, New York. Although its average tuition is around $60,000, students should prepare themselves to pay much more depending on the academic program they pursue (which can amount to more than $70,000).

Also on campus housing rates vary significantly from $7,900 to $21,000 per academic year. (see image snippet below)


The state of New York offers college grants for its students, plus NYU students can apply for further financial aid, federal grants, scholarships, and loans.

The New York University is ranked No. 29 in the ARWU 2016 ranking for colleges around the world, but is No. 22 in the CWUR World University Ranking of the same year.

This university was opened to the public in 1832, one of the few American universities to establish portal campuses in different parts of the world.

Today, it has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

Sarah Lawrence College: $65,630


source: sarahlawrence.edu

Another New York college, Sarah Lawrence College can be found in Westchester County in Yonkers City.

One of the things that make this college prominent is its quality of teachers and staff. In the 2013 Princeton Review, it had the best teaching faculty in the country.

It was ranked No. 57 by the US News and World Reports in National Liberal Arts Colleges.

It has over 1,400 undergraduate students but the school patterns its education according to Oxford and Cambridge student to teacher ratio. 92.9% of its classes have less than 20 students.

The school started in the early 1920s, and was named after the founder’s wife, Sarah Bates Lawrence. It was supposed to only host humanities and arts classes for women, but the curriculum expanded to include more academic program and became a co-ed school in 1968.

University of Chicago: $64,965


image courtesy: uchicago.edu

A private research and academic institution in Chicago, Illinois, the University of Chicago was founded in 1890. It was established by the American Baptist Education Society, but the school now is not affiliated with any religious organization.

It’s one of the most prominent higher education schools in the United States. It was ranked 8 in the CWUR most recent ranking, No. 10 in Times Higher Education world ranking, ARWU list, and QS World University ranking, and No. 4 in National Universities in the US News and World Reports 2016 survey.

Aside from its highly awarded academic programs, its athletic teams are part of the NCAA Division III. First year students have to live on campus.

The school has a large student population, with around 5,681 undergraduate enrollees, but more than 15,000 in total. Even with such a huge number, UC actually only has an acceptance rate of 7% – 8%, lower than several Ivy League schools like Brown University and Dartmouth College.

Many of the university’s alumni now hold prominent positions in different fields in research, politics, humanities, and the arts.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock: $64,660

bard college at simons rock

image source: simons-rock.edu

Commonly simply called “Simon’s Rock”, this member of the Bard College (founded in 1860) is located in the Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The private institution actually got its current name from a large rock on the campus. A local boy (named Simon) claimed it during the 1920s. The community adopted the name, and in 1979 when the school became part of Bard College, it underwent several name changes, until 2006 when it finally became “Bard College at Simon’s Rock”.

Although part of a higher education institution, Simon’s Rock isn’t a traditional one.

It’s an early college. In other words, it’s offered to students who want to skip 11th or 12th grade and on to college education.

In fact, many of its students are as young as 16 years old. It’s the only recognized early college in the country.

It has a student-teacher ratio of 8:1, and has an average of 11 students in a classroom. In 2014, Business Insider named Bard College at Simon’s Rock one of the country’s smartest colleges.

According to the school, 85% of its students don’t pay the full amount for their academic programs because of financial aid. Its undergraduate student population is less than 400.

University of Southern California: $64,482


image source: usc.edu

Standing in Los Angeles, California, the private school, University of Southern California, was built in 1880. It’s a private university that has more than 18,000 undergraduate students!

The total population of enrollees, however, amounts to around 50,000, according to the school’s website. It’s one of the top 10 largest universities in the country, according to undergraduate student population.

US News and World Reports ranks USC No. 23 in the National Universities category. ARWU ranks it No. 49, and CWUR ranks it No. 44.

The university is highly competitive, not just in academics. Its student athletes who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil won 9 gold out the 21 medals they got.

USC is also the only college to house the world’s most powerful quantum processor. The only other organizations with this computer are Google and NASA.

Although the college cost is high, many students can avail of grants, loans, and half or full-tuition scholarships from the institution. The USC athletic teams have won more than a hundred NCAA games and over 200 medals during various Olympic Games.

Claremont McKenna College: $64,325


source: kfseng.com

One of the colleges in the Claremont Colleges consortium, Claremont McKenna College, also found in Claremont, California, was founded in 1946.

Like many old colleges, it started as a men’s school (it was named “Claremont Men’s College) until 1976 when it opened its doors to female students. It was also partly named after Donald McKenna, one of its members in the board of trustees.

Its curriculum focuses on economics and politics, but it also offers different academic programs in business and sciences.

It is ranked No. 9 by the US News and World Reports among liberal arts colleges in 2016, and No. 29 in the Smartest Private Colleges by Business Insider in its 2014 survey. It has 1,301 undergraduate students, with less than fifty graduate students enrolled.

The college has an acceptance rate of 10% (sometimes lower). The school also has a low student-teacher ratio.

As part of The Claremont Colleges group though, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) students can take up majors in the other colleges if it’s not offered at CMC.

Oberlin College & Conservatory: $64,266

Tuition Oberlin College

image courtesy: Oberlin.edu

Oberlin College began as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute when it began operations in 1833 in the town also established by the college founders.

Located in Oberlin, Ohio, the college is also a music school. Its conservatory is also the oldest in the United States that’s still operating.

By 1835, the college was already admitting students from different races. It has 2,961 undergraduate students, and is ranked by US News and World Reports as No. 23 among National Liberal Arts Colleges, and No. 29 in Best Undergraduate Teaching.

The college claims to be the first academic institution of higher learning to admit African American students.

In fact, one of its graduates was George B. Vashon, who was the first black lawyer in New York. The college had also admitted female students, making it the oldest co-ed college in the country.

Because of its history of supporting and providing education to students, regardless of race or gender, Oberlin College was listed as a National Historical Landmark in 1965.

Scripps College: $64,260


image by.scrippscollege.edu

Another college that’s part of The Claremont Colleges group, Scripps College was founded in 1962. It was named after its founder, Ellen Browning Scripps. It’s a women’s college and only has around 1,000 (or less) undergraduates.

It offers 50 majors, with less than 20 students per class. The college is one of the schools included in the National Register of Historic Places, and is constantly regarded as having the most beautiful campus in the country.

As a residential college, its dorms have also been featured in Princeton Review as one of the most beautiful living quarters and halls among colleges in the nation.

The idea for The Claremont Colleges actually started with James A. Blaisdell, then president of Pomona College. He sent letters to Ellen Browning Scripps, seeking support in founding separate colleges under one banner, much like Oxford.

Bard College: $64,254


Image source: bard.edu

The Bard College Network has different campuses around the country, in New York City, Boston, and California. Like NYU, it also has colleges in other countries like Germany and Russia.

The Bard College main campus, though, is in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. It was started in 1860, and began as “St. Stephen’s College” by John Bard. Civil War broke out in the country, but the founders wanted the students to learn not just for the war, but for liberal education.

There was a time when the college actually became an undergraduate institution for Columbia University to save the school from going bankrupt. Some time later, it took the name of its founder.

It was the first US college to treat the arts as academic courses.

In fact, during the early to mid-20th century, the school taught many artists, writers, and scientific scholars that came from Europe.

In 1944, it began to accept female students, and because it was going to be a co-ed college, it broke away from Columbia (who only began accepting women during the 1980s).

US News and World Reports named it the Most Innovative School in 2016, and ranked it No. 45 in National Liberal Arts Colleges.

Haverford College: $64,216


image source: Haverford.edu

Located in Haverford, Pennsylvania, Haverford College is a liberal arts college for undergraduates only.

It has 1,194 students, with a 9:1 student-teacher ratio. It was founded in 1833 by Quakers (Orthodox Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends).

The school was only supposed to accommodate no more than 300 students, but many who wanted education (with elements of the Quaker philosophy) enrolled, and the college grew.

Haverford College is part of the Tri-College Consortium, together with Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore College.

Like The Claremont College group, students in Haverford can cross-enroll at the other two colleges. Haverford is also part of the Quaker Consortium with the University of Pennsylvania.

Among liberal arts colleges in the nation, Haverford ranks No. 12. The school’s academic curriculum is guided by the Honor Code, which means that students can take exams without proctors and schedule their tests.

Duke University: $64,188


image courtesy: duke.edu

It’s one of the most distinguished colleges in the country. Duke University was first established in 1838 in Trinity (where it became Trinity College). The school moved to Durnham, North Carolina in 1892.

In 1924, there was a huge gift by James B. Duke that allowed Trinity College to become Duke University in its new home in Durnham. The school is actually named after James Duke’s father. Female students used to go to a separate campus, but in 1972, the university became a co-ed.

First to third year students are required to live on campus. It’s a large school, with an undergraduate population of 6,485, with close to 15,000 students all in all. Duke University is known for its academics, as well as its basketball team, which had won 5 NCAA championships.

Duke also has academic centers around the world, in China and Indonesia.

US News and World Reports ranks it No. 8 in National Universities, and No. 10 in Best Undergraduate Teaching. The QS and CWUR World University Rankings ranked it No. 29. In the ARWU, it is No. 25, and in the Times Higher Education, it is No. 20.

Dartmouth College: $64,134


photo: Dartmouth.edu

Another of the famous Ivy League schools, Dartmouth College was founded in 1769. It is located in Hanover, New Hampshire, and is one of the oldest colleges that have produced several prominent figures in the country in politics, in the arts, and in the sciences.

Some of those people are Theodor Geisel (famously known as Dr. Seuss), Owen Chamberlain (1959 Nobel Prize for Physics recipient), Charles Alfred Pillsbury (Pillsbury Company founder), and Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), among many others.

It is No. 2 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and No. 12 in National Universities, according to the US News and World Reports recent data.

Dartmouth also a thriving Greek life, with one of its fraternity cultures featured in the comedy “National Lampoon’s Animal House”. 

It has over 4,200 undergraduate students, with more than 2,000 taking postgraduate studies. More than half of the students in Dartmouth receive financial aid from the school.

Northwestern University: $63,938


Image from: flickr.com

In 1851, several men started building a school. One of the founders was John Evans in Evanston (the city named after him), Illinois. The school opened in 1855 with only two teachers and ten students.

It’s ranked No. 21 in the CWUR, No. 25 in the Times Higher Education ranking, No. 26 in the ARWU, and No. 32 in the QS World Ranking. Despite its founders having little to no money to start their educational venture, the Northwestern University had grown to become one of the country’s noteworthy colleges.

It’s the only private college that’s part of the Big Ten Conference (which used to be called Western Conference or Big Nine Conference), the oldest Division I athletic conference for colleges.

The university also boasts famous alumni in the fields of politics and performing arts like Arthur Joseph Goldberg (Ambassador to the United Nations), Jerry Springer (The Jerry Springer Show), and Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), among others.

Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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