Blog: Education by the Numbers

Small liberal arts schools tend to be more expensive

I was just playing around with the recently updated data on the College Affordability and Transparency Center, and I was struck by how many smaller liberal arts colleges are among the most expensive four-year private non-profit institutions. I expected to see more universities with expensive graduate departments and science labs.

To be sure, Columbia University tops the list with annual tuition and required fees of $45,290 during the 2011-12 school year. That might be expected with the high cost of real estate and salaries in New York City. But seven of the top 10 most expensive schools are small liberal arts colleges: Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Trinity, Connecticut College, Wesleyan, Bucknell and Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass.

On the other hand, these bucolic colleges are not so much more expensive than urban universities. University of Chicago at $43,780 is nearly as pricey.

Here’s the list of the 65 most expensive four-year colleges and universities:

U.S. Department of Education
Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above with Highest Tuition
(National Average: $22,786)      
Institution State Tuition(1)  
Columbia University in the City of New York NY $45,290  
Sarah Lawrence College NY $45,212  
Vassar College NY $44,705  
George Washington University DC $44,148  
Trinity College CT $44,070  
Carnegie Mellon University PA $44,010  
Connecticut College CT $43,990  
Wesleyan University CT $43,974  
Bucknell University PA $43,866  
Bard College at Simon’s Rock MA $43,840  
University of Chicago IL $43,780  
St John’s College MD $43,656  
St John’s College NM $43,655  
Union College NY $43,602  
Tulane University of Louisiana LA $43,434  
Bard College NY $43,306  
Oberlin College OH $43,210  
Williams College MA $43,190  
University of Richmond VA $43,170  
Dickinson College PA $43,060  
Dartmouth College NH $42,996  
Tufts University MA $42,962  
Carleton College MN $42,942  
Colgate University NY $42,920  
Hobart William Smith Colleges NY $42,915  
Hampshire College MA $42,900  
Amherst College MA $42,898  
Occidental College CA $42,871  
Colby College ME $42,820  
University of Southern California CA $42,818  
Bowdoin College ME $42,816  
Bates College ME $42,800  
Bennington College VT $42,800  
Reed College OR $42,800  
St Lawrence University NY $42,735  
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute NY $42,704  
Hamilton College NY $42,640  
Kenyon College OH $42,630  
Franklin and Marshall College PA $42,610  
Gettysburg College PA $42,610  
Pitzer College CA $42,550  
Middlebury College VT $42,428  
Harvey Mudd College CA $42,410  
Skidmore College NY $42,380  
Johns Hopkins University MD $42,280  
Claremont McKenna College CA $42,240  
Brown University RI $42,230  
Haverford College PA $42,208  
Boston College MA $42,204  
Barnard College NY $42,184  
University of Pennsylvania PA $42,098  
Macalester College MN $42,021  
Washington University in St Louis MO $41,992  
Northwestern University IL $41,983  
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering MA $41,950  
Scripps College CA $41,950  
Duke University NC $41,938  
Washington and Lee University VA $41,927  
Wheaton College MA $41,894  
Brandeis University MA $41,860  
University of Rochester NY $41,826  
Ursinus College PA $41,820  
Stevens Institute of Technology NJ $41,782  
New York University NY $41,606  
Wake Forest University NC $41,576  
(1)Tuition and Required Fees, 2011-12
     
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2011, Institutional Characteristics component and Spring 2012, Student Financial Aid component.