10 Most, Least Expensive Private Colleges

The college search is often beset with an old but increasingly difficult question for families: How can we afford it?

With runaway tuition, families are paying significantly more now than they were in prior decades. U.S. News data shows that tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 school year cost an average of about $39,700 at ranked private schools. Average tuition for out-of-state students attending ranked public colleges comes to about $23,000, and average in-state tuition at public institutions is about $10,400.

Some college officials point to financial struggles as one of the most common reasons students drop out.

As tuition continues to climb — over the last 20 years the average tuition at private schools has increased by nearly 150% — families must consider what they can afford without overburdening students with debt that may take years to pay off.

Students and parents would be well-served to understand tuition costs and factor those into their college search.

U.S. News collected tuition data as part of an annual survey sent to colleges in the spring and summer of 2022. Among the findings from that data is that of the 911 ranked private colleges that provided their 2022-2023 tuition and fees, more than 180 have sticker prices of more than $50,000 for the year. Only 63 private colleges reported annual tuition and fees under $20,000.

Among the 10 colleges reporting the highest tuition and fees, two schools — Brown University in Rhode Island and the University of Southern California — are ranked among the top 25 National Universities, institutions that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Brown is tied at No. 13 while USC is tied at No. 25. Tuition costs do not factor into the overall ranking methodology, although the calculations do assess schools on the average indebtedness of their graduates.

Four of the 10 most expensive private colleges U.S. News categorized as National Universities and the other six are National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees across liberal arts fields. Amherst College in Massachusetts ranks No. 2 among all National Liberal Arts Colleges, and is the 10th most expensive school. Two New York-based schools, Vassar College (ranked No. 13) and Colgate University (No. 16), are the next highest-ranked among the most expensive schools.

The majority of the 10 private colleges with the highest tuition and fee costs are located on the East Coast, with Massachusetts claiming three. There are three geographic outliers: USC, Colorado College and Kenyon College in Ohio.

Tuition and fees at these 10 colleges average out to nearly $65,000, per U.S. News data.

While these tuition numbers may be eye-popping, families should understand that sticker prices aren’t always what they’ll end up paying once institutional grants and scholarships are applied.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the average cost among the 10 least expensive ranked private colleges is about $11,700, per U.S. News data.

Private colleges reporting the lowest tuition rates are a mix of National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges, as well as one Regional University, a category that encompasses schools that offer bachelor’s degrees, some master’s programs and limited options at the doctoral level, and several Regional Colleges, institutions that focus on undergraduate education but award fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts fields. The 10 least expensive private colleges are also geographically diverse, spread broadly across the U.S.

Of these 10 colleges, the lowest price tag is found at Boricua College in New York, which reported 2022-2023 tuition and fees at $6,025. Boricua ranks No. 39 in the Regional Colleges (North) category.

Brigham Young University–Provo, which ranks No. 90 in the National Universities category, provides the next best value of these schools, reporting tuition and fees of $6,304. One caveat about the school’s cost, however, is that this price is only for students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith with which BYU is affiliated. Students who are not members have to pay twice that, according to BYU’s website, at $12,608 for the year.

The tables below show the schools across the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that charge the most and least tuition and fees in 2022-2023, as reported to U.S. News. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

Most Expensive Schools

School Name (state) 2022-2023 tuition and fees U.S. News Rank and Category
Kenyon College (OH) $66,490 31 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Franklin & Marshall College (PA) $65,844 39 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Tufts University (MA) $65,222 32, National Universities
Brown University (RI) $65,146 13 (tie), National Universities
Colorado College $65,028 27 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Vassar College (NY) $64,800 13 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Southern California $64,726 25 (tie), National Universities
Colgate University (NY) $64,290 16 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Boston College $64,176 36 (tie), National Universities
Amherst College (MA) $64,100 2, National Liberal Arts Colleges

Least Expensive Schools

School Name (state) 2022-2023 tuition and fees U.S. News Rank and Category
Boricua College (NY) $6,025 39, Regional Colleges (North)
Brigham Young University–Provo (UT) $6,304 90 (tie), National Universities
Stillman College (AL) $11,392 63 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)
Tougaloo College (MS) $11,398 151 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Voorhees College (SC) $12,630 33 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)
National University (CA) $13,320 106, Regional Universities (West)
Allen University (SC) $13,540 197, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Talladega College (AL) $13,571 63 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)
Virginia Union University $14,230 188 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
Alice Lloyd College (KY) $14,250 21 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)

Don’t see your school here? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find tuition and fees data, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,850 colleges and universities for our 2022-2023 survey of undergraduate programs.Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News produces lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The tuition and fees data above is correct as of Sept. 12, 2022.

More from U.S. News

Princeton, Williams Top 2022 U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings

Explore the 2022 Best National Universities

See the 2022 Best Liberal Arts Colleges

10 Most, Least Expensive Private Colleges originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 09/12/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Related Categories:

Education News | Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up