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Most Expensive Universities – Introduction

For many students deciding which colleges to apply to, cost and financial aid are big deciding factors. Knowing which schools are the least and most expensive colleges in the US can indicate what attending a university costs. Tuition, along with room and board, school supplies, living expenses, and transportation, are some of the many things that make the most expensive universities in the world cost the most.

The cost of college is constantly increasing from year to year. Thus, the already monumental college decision becomes even more important for students and parents alike. Rising college costs have been seen across the board for both private and public universities. Many have even seen increases in the last year. For example, tuition and fees for public four-year universities are $170 higher for in-state universities. And, they’re $410 higher for out-of-state universities, while private nonprofit four-year universities are $800 higher.

So, what is the most expensive university in the US? Or maybe you’re wondering what is the most expensive university in the world? Or more specifically, what is the most expensive college near me?

Some schools are considerably more expensive than others. However, the most expensive college for one student may not necessarily be the most expensive college for you. In fact, you may be surprised to find that the school with the most expensive college tuition isn’t actually the most expensive college in the world. Additionally, if you search colleges by region, you may be surprised that the most expensive universities are located all across the US.

In this expert guide to the Most Expensive Universities, you’ll find:

  • Discussion of rising college costs
  • A college tuition inflation chart to help you better understand rising college costs
  • Lists of colleges with the most expensive college tuition
  • A list of the most expensive universities in the world
  • The top 10 most expensive colleges in the US
  • Advice on how to plan for the cost of college, and more!

Understanding inflation and the cost of college is more important now than ever. This is especially true for students considering applying to some of the most expensive universities in the world. Students who had to borrow money to pay for college are experiencing what is now called the student debt crisis. Many Americans, no matter if they attended the most expensive colleges in the US, are struggling to pay back their student loans, resulting in a nearly $1.7 trillion crisis.

Before we start exploring the most expensive colleges in the US and find out which school is the most expensive college in the world, let’s learn a little bit more about college tuition inflation.

Exploring college tuition inflation

With prices rising for everything from gasoline to milk to clothing, it’s no surprise that inflation is on everyone’s mind. But what exactly is inflation, and how does it affect how we view the most expensive colleges in the US?

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Inflation happens when prices rise, which forces the value of money to decline. Recently, inflation has been the highest it’s been in over 30 years, with the annual rate of inflation hitting 9.1% in June. This means that many goods and services, including essential living expenses like groceries and rent prices, are more expensive than they’ve ever been. People are feeling these increased costs eat into their savings and income more and more.

While college should be considered an important investment in your future, rising college costs can greatly impact how much you and your family can expect to pay in college tuition and related costs. Learning about the effects of college tuition inflation can help you prepare and plan for the future. That way, you can decide whether or not the most expensive colleges in the US are right for you. While the most expensive universities in the world can provide you with an exceptional education, it is important to weigh the benefits of attending the most expensive universities with how much they cost.

What is college tuition inflation?

While the cost of college has stabilized over the last two years, college tuition costs have risen dramatically over time. College tuition inflation is the rate at which the cost of college increases year after year. Even the most expensive college tuition can get more expensive. So, while some schools may rise and fall on our list of the most expensive universities, our list of the 25 most expensive colleges in the US is likely to remain fairly consistent in the years to come.

While the most expensive college in the world has remained the same for the last three years, the cost of college has risen steadily over the last ten years, approximately 4.63% per year from 2010 – 2020. This number is even higher at 4-year public universities, where college tuition rose by over 31% from 2010 – 2020. According to Forbes, the price of college has increased due to several reasons. This list includes how universities choose to prioritize their spending, a lack of transparency surrounding financial aid and costs, and the increased availability of student loans.

Additionally, many students and parents believe that the high price of college will be worth it in the long run by providing access to higher-paying jobs. However, this is not the case for all majors and areas of academic study. While the most expensive university in the world might claim to provide opportunities you won’t find anywhere else, leaving college with a large amount of debt can leave you struggling to pay off your student loans for years.

Does inflation affect college tuition?

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Yes – the price of college is affected by inflation. Like every part of the American economy, the education sector is impacted by inflation rates. As inflation increases, consumers will see prices climb higher: the cost of living, borrowing money, and higher education. Over time, this results in a decrease in consumers’ purchasing power. So, their money isn’t worth what it used to be. This can make even the most expensive university in the world feel even more expensive.

While inflation is greatly impacting the prices of other goods and services, the good news is that college tuition inflation is below recent overall economic inflation rates. However, that doesn’t mean the most expensive universities in the world are any less expensive. Even when adjusted for inflation, college tuition rates are rising at an incredible rate. College tuition costs have increased 130% since 1990. Additionally, inflation has led to price increases on other goods students may need for college, including books, transportation, and electronics.

When was college tuition inflation at its worst?

College tuition costs have risen dramatically over the past several years. In the 1980s, the price of college increased by 121.4%. By 1988, the most expensive university in the US was Bennington College, which cost $18,990 per year. Although the most extreme shift in college tuition costs was several decades ago, the sticker price of college still increases yearly. The price of college in 2019-2020 is 180% times higher than it was in 1980.

While private universities tend to have the most expensive college tuition, the price of public universities has also risen. From 2010 – 2020, college tuition costs at public universities increased by 31.4%.

College tuition inflation chart

Let’s look at how college tuition inflation has changed over time. The college tuition inflation chart below shows how average college tuition costs have increased over the last ten years. When adjusted for inflation, tuition rates spiked during the 2015 – 2016 school year. However, that doesn’t make the most expensive universities any less expensive today. Even though the rates of tuition inflation were more dramatic several years ago, the price of college continues to rise. 

most expensive universities

This college tuition inflation chart is just one way to put the most expensive universities of today into context. Tuition costs at the most expensive university in USA history from 60 years ago can’t compare to tuition costs at the most expensive university in USA statistics today. After taking inflation into account, the cost of tuition has increased by 747.8% since 1963. That means that compared to the most expensive college in the 1960s, the most expensive college in the world today is far more expensive.

What university has the highest tuition rate?

Although you might think that the most expensive college in the world would likely have the most expensive college tuition in the world, this isn’t necessarily the case.

According to a study by BrokeScholar, the most expensive college in the US based on tuition and required fees is Columbia University.

Columbia University

As one of the most expensive universities in the world, Columbia costs $69,986 to attend, not including room, board, textbooks, or other costs.

most expensive universities

When considering Columbia as one of the most expensive universities for undergraduate students, it is important to remember that tuition is just one contributing factor to the overall cost of college. Room and board have their own costs, as do textbooks and general expenses. 

Location and the cost of college

The price of college can also be affected by a school’s location. Certain cities will be more expensive to live in than others. If you plan on exploring the community outside of campus, factor in what cities the most expensive universities are located. For example, going out and living in New York City, where Columbia University is located, is going to be significantly more expensive than in Columbia, Missouri, home to Columbia College.

More broadly, different areas of the country can have schools that are more and less expensive, so you might be surprised where the most expensive university in USA statistics is located. If you search for colleges by region, you’ll likely find that living expenses are lower in smaller towns than in major cities, but the most expensive universities can be found everywhere, especially if they are private.

As you plan for college tuition costs, make sure you think about more than just tuition. The answer to “what are the most expensive colleges” will be different for every student. Just because a school has high college tuition costs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. In addition to having a high sticker price, many of the most expensive colleges in the US also have robust financial aid programs.

What are the most expensive colleges?

So, what are the most expensive universities? Before we look at the most expensive colleges in the US, let’s stop to think about why you might choose to attend the most expensive college on your list. It’s important to remember that the most expensive college in the world is not necessarily the best college in the world, nor the best college for you. If you are considering applying to the most expensive college in the world, be sure it has the right combination of academics and student life, is the right size, and is in the right location for you. Now let’s look at the most expensive colleges in America.

CBS News rates the five most expensive colleges in America:

#1- Harvey Mudd College

most expensive universities - harvey mudd college

#2- University of Pennsylvania

Most expensive universities- Upenn

#3- Amherst College

Most expensive universities- amherst college

#4- University of Southern California

most expensive universities- usc

#5- Tufts University

most expensive universities- tuft

Although these college tuition costs include additional costs, like room and board, as well as tuition, these schools have some of the most expensive college tuition you’ll find across the country. Each of these colleges costs more than $60,000 each year in tuition alone.

It’s no surprise that some of the most expensive universities in the country are private universities. Generally speaking, private colleges and universities tend to be pricier than their public counterparts, even for out-of-state students. When looking for “colleges near me,” make sure you check whether the school is a public or private university. Many private colleges are considered the most expensive college in the state for both in-state and out-of-state residents. So, looking at colleges in your state or colleges by region won’t make as much of a difference.  

Top 25 Most Expensive Colleges in the US

Instead of only looking at the top 5 most expensive colleges, or the top 10 most expensive colleges in the US, we’re expanding our list to include the Top 25 Most Expensive Colleges in America. As you look at the most expensive universities in the US, remember that this list reflects the full costs of attendance rather than tuition alone, so these schools do not necessarily have the most expensive college tuition specifically.

Most Expensive Colleges #25-11

#25: Cornell University

The first school in our top 25 most expensive colleges in the US is Cornell University. This Ivy League school, located in Ithaca, NY, costs $75,128 per year.

#24: University of Rochester

The University of Rochester, known for its nursing and music education programs, will cost students $75,305 per year to attend.

#23: Connecticut College

Although Connecticut College is one of the most expensive schools in the US, with a yearly cost of $75,315, it has no application fee.

#22: Barnard College

Barnard, a top women’s school, is one of several New York colleges that rank as some of the most expensive schools in the country. The cost of attending Barnard is $75,335 per year.

#21: Boston College

Boston College costs students $75,422 per year and is the third most expensive school in Boston.

#20: Scripps College

Students who attend Scripps College, another top women’s school, can expect to pay $75,474 per year.

#19: Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College, the third most expensive school in Pennsylvania, costs $75,512 per year.

#18: Southern Methodist University

As one of the best and most expensive schools in Texas, Southern Methodist University has a yearly sticker price of $75,650.

#17: Wesleyan University

As the most expensive school in Connecticut, Wesleyan University costs $75,800 per year.

#16: Oberlin College

Students studying at Oberlin, the most expensive school in Ohio, can expect to pay $75,888 per year 

#15: Bard College

Another New York institution, Bard costs $75, 921 per year to attend before financial aid.

#14: Reed College

Reed College, the most expensive school in Oregon, costs $75,950 to attend and charges no application fee.

#13: Haverford College

Haverford College, a liberal arts college located in Pennsylvania, has a yearly cost of $75,966.

#12: Vassar College

Although Vassar College costs $76,000 per year, more than half of students attending this university in Poughkeepsie, New York receive some level of financial aid.

#11: Georgetown University

Georgetown University, located in the US capital, costs $76,106. It is ranked #22 in National Universities and #3 in International Business.


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And now, for the Top 10 Most Expensive Colleges…

#10: Wellesley College

Wellesley College marks our top 10 most expensive colleges in America. As one of the best women’s colleges in America, Wellesley costs $76,220 per year to attend.

# 9: University of Chicago

Previously the most expensive school in the country, UChicago costs $76,302 per year. UChicago is ranked #6 in National Universities and is known for their economics program. 

# 8: Northwestern University

Northwestern University, home of the cats, costs $76,317 per year and is known for their journalism and communications studies programs.

#7: Brown University

Brown ranks seventh on our list of most expensive universities in the US. With only a 7% acceptance rate, Brown costs $76,476 per year to attend.

#6: Dartmouth College

As another Ivy League school, Dartmouth is another of the most expensive universities in the US, with a sticker price of $76,480 per year.

#5: Tufts University

Tufts University is one of the top five most expensive colleges in America. Students can pay $76,492 per year to attend this school in Medford, Massachusetts.

#4: University of Southern California

One of the most expensive colleges in America is the University of Southern California. While not the most expensive college in California, USC is still the second most expensive school in California and the fourth most expensive school in the country, with a cost of $77,459 per year.

#3: Amherst College

The third most expensive college in the US is Amherst College. At a cost of $76,800 per year, Amherst is the most expensive college in Massachusetts.

#2: University of Pennsylvania

Right behind the most expensive university in the US is the University of Pennsylvania. UPenn is an Ivy League school, with an acceptance rate of 8% and a cost of $76,826 per year.

#1 Most Expensive College: Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College is considered the most expensive college in the US. In addition to being the most expensive university in the world and the US, it is also the most expensive college in California, with a cost of $77,449 per year.

As you look at this list of the most expensive colleges in the US, you might notice that the price of college at the top 10 most expensive colleges are quite similar. While the University of Pennsylvania may not be considered the most expensive university in the world, it is only $623 cheaper than Harvey Mudd College. 

That being said, account for your college tuition costs multiplying by four years and potentially rising over time. Additionally, check each college’s website for the most up-to-date tuition costs. But, you can use this list to get a sense of the most expensive colleges in the US.

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What is the most expensive college in the US?

The most expensive college in the US, including all relevant costs, is Harvey Mudd College. As the most expensive university in the US, Harvey Mudd College has both a high price tag and a lot to offer students. However, if you look at tuition alone, Columbia University is the most expensive university in the US. Compared to Columbia’s tuition of $65,524, tuition at the most expensive university in the world is $62,516.

Generally, the most expensive colleges in America are privately operated. Private colleges often end up being the most expensive universities in the world, especially when compared to their public counterparts. It’s no surprise that the most expensive university in the world is located in the US, given the recent trends in college pricing that show costs continue to rise.

Even if you’re applying to the most expensive university in the world, always include affordable schools on your college list. Depending on where you live, searching “public colleges near me” can help you get a sense of what in-state options might offer the lowest cost of attendance. If you are sure you want to stay in-state for school, you can also search for the “most expensive college near me” to get a sense of what other colleges may cost.

Exploring the top 25 Most Expensive Colleges in the World

The American higher education system is more expensive than that of other countries. So, it stands to reason that some of the most expensive universities in the world are located in the US. Some contributing factors include a lack of public funding for higher education and increased demand, so, any list of the most expensive universities in the world will be dominated by US colleges.

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The cost of tuition can also vary across colleges by region. If you search colleges by region, you’ll find that some of the most expensive universities are on the east coast. However, which schools are considered the most expensive college for you will depend on where you are from. Many colleges outside of the US may be more expensive for international students, so do your research as you budget for attending a college outside the US. This includes travel plans, as it will be more difficult to return home for breaks if you choose to do so. 

Knowing schools in America are often the most expensive universities in the world, it should be no surprise which school is the most expensive college in the world.  Harvey Mudd is the most expensive college in the US and the most expensive college in the world. It is ranked #29 in National Liberal Arts Colleges, #36 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and #89 in Best Value Schools.

Most Expensive Universities in the World

Now let’s look at some of the most expensive universities abroad. While these schools may be less expensive than the most expensive university in the world, they are some of the most expensive universities outside the US. Here’s our list of a few of the most expensive colleges in the world to explore.

1. University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia)

most expensive college in the world

2. University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia)

most expensive college in the world

3. University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

most expensive college in the world

4. Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University) (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

most expensive college in the world

5. Regent’s University London (London, United Kingdom)

While none of these schools are considered the very most expensive college in the world, nor the most expensive college in their respective countries, they are still some of the most expensive universities in the world. Depending on financial aid you receive, they may be some of the most expensive universities on your college list.

Which is the most expensive college in the world?

Generally speaking, the most expensive colleges in the US are more expensive than their international counterparts. So, it makes sense that the most expensive universities in the world are located in the US.

Accordingly, Harvey Mudd is still the most expensive college in the world. 

Because the most expensive universities are located in the US, many students choose to study internationally at non-US schools. While this can come with additional fees, many international schools have lower tuition than private universities in the US. Therefore, the most expensive university in the world outside of the US is cheaper than those in the US.

Colleges responding to college tuition inflation

Due to the ongoing student debt crisis, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, many schools have instituted policies that help make the cost of college more affordable. Here are some examples of how the most expensive universities have made plans to help students.

For the 2022-2023 school year:

  • Ohio Dominican University is freezing undergraduate college tuition and is instead providing more support through merit awards.
  • Baylor University plans to lessen the blow of rising college costs by capping their tuition increase at 3%.
  • USC has also chosen to freeze its college tuition for the third year in a row.
  • Purdue has also frozen its college tuition to help students afford the cost of college.

While these programs remain limited, they can provide students with much-needed support as they attend some of the most expensive universities, even the most expensive university in the world.

5 steps you can take today to help plan for the cost of college

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1. Do your research

As you start creating your college list, do some research on the most expensive colleges in the US. Many of these schools offer expansive programs and comprehensive financial aid packages that make it possible for students from all financial backgrounds to attend. CollegeAdvisor has financial aid scholarship webinars for students of all backgrounds, like our navigating federal financial aid for students with disabilities, or first-generation college student guides, to help you learn more about what you can do to afford even the most expensive universities. If you already know which of the most expensive universities you want to apply to, check out our school-specific financial aid guides for schools like Brown, Columbia, and Harvard.

2. Build a college list with costs at the forefront

The most expensive college in the US is not necessarily the best college for you, so make sure you compare college costs before adding schools to your list. Many schools have a financial aid calculator you can use to estimate your cost of attendance even before you apply, which can help give you an idea if the most expensive college on your list is feasible for you to attend. Even if the most expensive universities seem out of reach, remember that they are often private universities with strong financial aid programs for students who can demonstrate financial need.

3. Complete your financial aid paperwork.

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If your dream school is considered one of the most expensive colleges in the US, make sure you submit your FAFSA and CSS profile on time. Successfully finding scholarships and financial aid can be the difference between being able to attend the most expensive university in the world and having to leave the most expensive universities off of your college list. If you are brand new to the financial aid process, check out our FAFSA 101 and Scholarship 101 webinars.

4. Look for merit scholarships

Merit scholarships are a great way for students to manage the cost of college and make even the most expensive colleges in the US more affordable. We have school-specific merit scholarship guides, for colleges like USC and Vanderbilt, to help students afford even the most expensive universities.

5. Find work-on campus

Both the most expensive colleges in the US and the least expensive offer students opportunities to work on campus. If you are applying for federal student aid, you can be granted work study as part of your financial aid package, so be sure to complete your FAFSA on time.

Most expensive universities and college tuition inflation – Final Thoughts

The most expensive university in the world is also the most expensive college in the US, inflation is at an all-time high, and we can likely expect that the most expensive universities will only be getting more expensive in the future. Now that you know which of the most expensive universities is the most expensive university in the world and why they’re so expensive, you also know that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. Both the most expensive universities and least expensive universities in the country have a lot to offer potential students, so you need to do your research to decide what is the most advantageous decision you can make for yourself in the long run.

Whether or not you choose to attend one of the most expensive colleges in the US, it is valuable to find ways to manage the increasing cost of college.

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If you need support, we can help

If one of your dream schools falls on the list of the most expensive universities in the world, be sure to do your research on the other most expensive universities and compare their financial aid programs. Schools that choose to support their students financially show that they’re making a commitment to not only being the most expensive college, but also the most accessible. Attending the most expensive university in the world doesn’t guarantee success in a person’s finances or career down the road, so make sure you find a school that provides everything you need to feel confident about applying.

If you’re interested in the most expensive universities in the world but aren’t sure whether you should include them on your college list, take some time to work with one of our Advisors. Our team at CollegeAdvisor.com is well versed in the most expensive universities and can help you decide which of the most expensive universities you should keep on your college list, and which you can leave behind.

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This article was written by Stefanie Tedards. No matter what stage you are at in your college search, CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help. To get one-on-one advising with an Admissions Expert, create your free account or schedule an advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.