The High Cost of Higher Education

The High Cost of Higher Education

Every year without fail, college tuition creeps upward. This year is no exception, says the latest report from the College Board, a higher-education membership association based in New York. According to the report, released on Oct. 28, the average published cost of annual tuition and fees at private four-year colleges is $27,293, up 4.5 percent from last year. Factor in room and board, and families are paying $36,993.

At public colleges, the cost is 7.9 percent higher than last year, with in-state tuition averaging $7,605. Out-of-state tuition averages $19,595, a six-percent increase from last year.

The sticker price—the published rate for tuition and fees—is not what most families actually pay for their child's education. Colleges and universities typically offer students a wide range of financial aid packages and scholarships, which can help offset the often-hefty tuition. It will soon become easier for families to figure out the net price, thanks to a federal law that went into effect this summer. By October of 2011, colleges will be required to post a net-price calculator on their websites, a tool that will help students figure out how much they would likely have to pay, based on their personal financial and academic background. For now, students can glean detailed information on financial aid by visiting websites such as the U.S. Education Dept.'s college navigator and the College Board's college search tool.

Even hefty financial aid packages can't disguise the underlying price hikes, with tuition and fees and room and board exceeding $50,000 at some schools. What are the priciest institutions out there? Using the College Board's database of self-reported numbers from 3,864 colleges and universities, Bloomberg Businessweek has compiled a list of the nation's 50 costliest colleges and universities.

Our ranking is based on out-of-state tuition and fees for the 2010-11 academic year. Where multiple schools at a single university or university system reported different costs, only the school with the highest tuition is listed. (In the case of an independently incorporated college affiliated with another institution, both are listed.) Our list is limited to schools accessible to the majority of college-bound students. To provide a more complete picture of what families typically pay for college, we've included data on room and board, books and supplies, estimated personal expenses, and transportation expenses, as well as financial aid.