The 15 Most Expensive Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Higher education can come with a hefty, hefty price tag.
She’s gonna need a bigger jar.
She’s gonna need a bigger jar. / JGI/Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

What is a degree worth to you? For some, that answer would be “quite a lot.” An average person who takes out federal loans winds up saddled with $37,338 of debt; private loans have a higher average debt of $54,921 per borrower. 

It’s no wonder some young adults wind up so deeply in the red. Higher education can come with a hefty, hefty price tag. Below are the 15 most expensive colleges and universities in the United States, sorted by the cost of tuition for the 2023–2024 academic year—meaning other fees, like room and board, aren’t even included. Keep track of how many names you recognize; perhaps surprisingly, there are only two members of the Ivy League.


College or University

Cost of Tuition


Kenyon College



Franklin & Marshall College



Colorado College



University of Southern California - Los Angeles



Haverford College



Amherst College



Colby College



Pepperdine University



Reed College



Tulane University



Carleton College



Columbia University



Cornell University



Harvey Mudd College



Claremont McKenna College


Why is college so expensive?

While there’s no one reason why some colleges and universities charge such high tuition, there are a few possible explanations.

Prestige goes a long way. These pricy schools have garnered impressive reputations over the years; this attracts applicants who are willing to shoulder the cost of attending for the sake of hanging a degree from them on their office walls. More expensive schools may also have better resources like top-quality staff, incredible facilities like state-of-the-art laboratories, and more appetizing dining hall meal choices.

Many of the expensive colleges and universities on the above list are also fairly small, but still have a large amount of faculty. Kenyon College—the most expensive school—has fewer than 2000 undergraduate students, and this personalized attention and higher staff-to-student ratio can come with a higher operating cost. It’s also important to note that private schools tend to cost more than public universities. And, as with everything else in life, inflation is driving up the price tag on higher education everywhere.

Increased tuition may contribute to the current trend of falling enrollment rates among young people. Compared to a decade earlier, enrollment was down 1.2 million in 2022. Gen Z may also be less willing to take out loans when fewer jobs on the market require degrees. In an era of digital commerce, remote work, and opportunities to make big bucks by going viral, some are questioning whether the cost of college is worth their time or their money. 

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