The Top 20 Private Colleges and Universities, From Most to Least Expensive

Columbia University in New York City.
Columbia University in New York City. / peterspiro/iStock via Getty Images

Without financial aid, scholarships, or a wealthy benefactor like Great Expectations's Magwitch to foot the bill, a four-year degree from a prestigious, private institution could cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But within the list of top colleges and universities, the price tags do vary a little. To pinpoint those monetary differences, digital marketing agency Higher Visibility first took Niche’s latest list of the top 20 private colleges and universities in the U.S., and then used data from CollegeCalc to rank them based on their annual tuition figures.

Columbia University took the blue ribbon (if you can call it that) with a yearly bill of $58,920. It was one of two New York schools to make the list—the other, Cornell University in Ithaca, came in 5th place with $56,550. Though California is perhaps best known in higher education for its wide-ranging and -reaching public university systems, the state is plenty big enough to accommodate a fair number of acclaimed private schools, too. There are four on this list, including the University of Southern California, Pomona College, Stanford University, and the California Institute of Technology.

The price rankings don’t necessarily match up with Niche’s overall rankings. Harvard University, Niche’s second-place finisher, is the cheapest of all 20 schools, with an annual tuition of $47,730.

If the figures below put a damper on your dreams of becoming an Ivy Leaguer, you should know that the Ivy League schools offer faily extensive need-based financial aid. Or, you could settle for taking advantage of all the free online classes they offer instead.

  1. Columbia University (New York) // $58,920
  2. University of Chicago (Illinois) // $57,642
  3. University of Southern California (California) // $57,256
  4. Brown University (Rhode Island) // $57,112
  5. Cornell University (New York) // $56,550
  6. Northwestern University (Illinois) // $56,232
  7. Duke University (North Carolina) // $55,880
  8. Dartmouth College (New Hampshire) // $55,605
  9. Yale University (Connecticut) // $55,500
  10. University of Notre Dame (Indiana) // $55,046
  11. Pomona College (California) // $54,380
  12. Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri) // $54,250
  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts) // $53,450
  14. Stanford University (California) // $52,857
  15. California Institute of Technology (California) // $52,506
  16. Princeton University (New Jersey) // $51,870
  17. University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania) // $51,156
  18. Vanderbilt University (Tennessee) // $50,800
  19. Rice University (Texas) // $48,330
  20. Harvard University (Massachusetts) // $47,730