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Posted at 06:56 PM ET, 10/10/2011

College sticker shock: Is $55,000 the new $50,000?

Nineteen colleges now charge $55,000 or more in annual tuition, fees and living expenses, according to the latest survey of most expensive colleges from CampusGrotto.

Back in 2007, by contrast, $50,000 was the upper limit of college sticker price and only one university — our own George Washington University — had reached it.

Before parents of high school seniors go into cardiac arrest, I should hasten to note that these same pricey colleges are discounting those lofty list prices at a record rate. The average private-college student pays roughly 60 cents of every dollar of college sticker price.

Sticker-price inflation is one reason why the federal government is pushing all colleges to publish a net-price calculator by month’s end. The calculator will tell parents what their own child should expect to pay, after adjusting for financial aid.

Here is CampusGrotto’s Top 10:

1. Sarah Lawrence College $59,170

2. New York University $56,787

3. Columbia University $56,310

4. Harvey Mudd College $55,998

5. Eugene Lang College (The New School) $55,890

6. Claremont McKenna College $55,865

7. Wesleyan University $55,706

8. Bard College $55,617

9. Barnard College $55,566

10. Trinity College (CT) $55,450

It’s worth noting that four of the top five schools are in New York, a rather costly address, and it’s probably room and board that pushes them to the top. Bard and Barnard are in New York City or State as well, and Trinity and Wesleyan are in neighboring Connecticut.

D.C. universities used to rank high on this list, no doubt to their displeasure. But none appears even in the Top 25 this year; the only nearby school on that list is Johns Hopkins, ranked 16th with total costs of $55,242. George Washington and Georgetown rank 39th and 40th, respectively, with total costs in the $54,000 range.

Another, somewhat more statistically rigorous survey came out today from Forbes. Its methodology attempts to include such additional expenses as books, transportation and mandatory computers.

Here, from a Forbes release, is some descriptive language for the magazine’s Top 5:

1. Sarah Lawrence College

Pricey New York-area location and low, 9:1 student/faculty ratio make this 1,300-undergraduate liberal-arts college the nation’s most expensive school. Total cost: $58,334.

2. The University of Chicago.

The 65% of students who receive some assistance averaged $27,460 in aid. Total cost: $57,590

3. The New School, N.Y.

This eclectic collection of colleges in downtown Manhattan vaults to the Top 10 thanks mainly to $4,000 in expenses for books, supplies and other costs like travel and meals. Total cost: $57,199

4. Washington University in St. Louis

Costs have increased steadily at this Midwestern liberal-arts university in recent years. Total cost: $56,930

5. Columbia University

Manhattan campus ensures this Ivy League research institution is always on the Top Ten list, despite a $7 billion endowment to help pay the bills. Total cost: $56,681

By  |  06:56 PM ET, 10/10/2011

Categories:  Access, Aid, Finance, Rankings | Tags:  George Washington University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University

 
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