The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The most expensive colleges in the country are art schools, not Ivies

Placeholder while article actions load

I recently stumbled across this handy tool from the Department of Education, which generates lists of colleges by cost. The schools that usually get dinged for high tuition (and as a result, scare off low-income applicants) are the elite colleges. But many of those schools are quite rich and distribute a lot of financial aid.

Here’s a list of the top 10 most expensive four-year private nonprofits, as determined by tuition sticker price:

Institution State Tuition and required fees, 2011-12
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

Now here’s a list of the top 10 most expensive four-year private nonprofits, after subtracting the average amount of government and institutional grant/scholarship aid at each institution:

Institution State Percent receiving grant aid Net price after scholarships and grant aid, 2010-11
School of the Art Institute of Chicago IL 100 $42,882
Ringling College of Art and Design FL 77 $40,222
The Boston Conservatory MA 65 $39,602
Berklee College of Music MA 63 $38,814
California Institute of the Arts CA 77 $38,802
The New School NY 97 $37,779
Art Center College of Design CA 66 $37,579
San Francisco Art Institute CA 97 $37,527
New York University NY 55 $36,834
Beacon College FL 29 $36,032

Notice something? There’s zero overlap between these two lists. Also, seven of the top 10 most expensive schools are arts schools or conservatories of some kind.

Some other observations:

• Half of the most expensive public four-year schools by net price are in Pennsylvania. (This is perhaps related to the fact that Pennsylvania slashed state and local appropriations per full-time equivalent student by 31.7 percent between fiscal years 2007-2012, and now has among the lowest appropriations per student among all states).

• Many of the least expensive private four-year nonprofits by net price have a religious affiliation or mission (Berea College, Family of Faith College, Bais Medrash Elyon, Hobe Sound Bible College).

• Some two-year public schools are really expensive! The net price — again, after taking into account grants and scholarships — for Florida Keys Community College is $22,933. On average two-year publics remain a pretty good deal though ($6,711 net price).