Thursday, June 30, 2011

Which Colleges are the Most and Least Expensive Nationwide?

Posted by: Noël Jones

Here is a tool that parents with high school kids getting ready to go to college will find really useful! Under Arnie Duncan's direction at the Federal Department of Education, a web site has been published that ranks the most and least expensive public and private colleges in the country.

Things that caught my attention:

1. Penn State is the most expensive 4-year public college in the country. University of Pittsburgh is second. In fact 22 of the top 31 most expensive 4-year public schools in the country are in
Pennsylvania. So if you're thinking you'll send your kid to an in-state college because it must cost less than an out-of-state school, think again.

2. Lafayette is not among the most expensive 4-year private colleges in the nation.

3. Lehigh University is among the most expensive 4-year private not-for-profit universities in the country. This is something I don't understand--how can a college be both private and a not-for-profit?

4. The vast majority of the most expensive private colleges in the U.S. are arts colleges. This seems crazy, considering the jobs that students are likely to get after getting degrees at arts colleges are likely to be far lower-paying than jobs after, say, business or medical school.

What catches your eye on the site? Post your observations here!


Anonymous said...

Having 2 daughters in college and being a single father with zero financial help from their mother I can attest to the fact that there is no such thing as a "cheap" college.

And the worst part is just when you think you have the costs figured out by looking at the school's web site reality hits you like a ton of bricks.

Books (biggest rip off on the planet) meal plans, place to live, software, laptop, thousands of things for their dorm room, so many things I could never list here.

Cristina and Richard said...

I'd be intersted to see a cross analysis of the quality/reputation of the degree provided vs the cost. I wonder if any such study exists?

noel jones said...

C and R--i don't know, but here's a link to a Bloomberg article with a depressing chart on the trend for earnings of those with a bachelor's degree compared to the cost of education from 1991 - 2008:

to make things worse, it seems like all of this data ends in 2008, which mean pre-crash. i'm sure the earnings are much lower now...

noel jones said...

Anon 2:41--i read an article that claimed that the costs are not being driven up so much by the costs of education, but by the cost of ADMINISTRATION and amenities and services that students cannot opt out of...

noel jones said...

...but you're right--text books are a huge rip off, especially with the new editions coming out each year. if they handled everything on line, they could simply post updates without much cost to the students/parents at all.

Kate R said...

"how can a college be both private and a not-for-profit?"

Noel, I think that most private colleges are. Lafayette and Lehigh certainly are and I think the others in the Valley are as well.

My understanding is that the difference between a public and private college is the funding that is received from the state. Public Colleges get more funding from the state. That is part of the reason why they are less expensive than private schools. But it also means that they are more restricted in how they can spend their money.

The difference between a for-profit and a not-for-profit is simply what is done with excess money at the end of the fiscal year. If a not-for-profit company has more income than spending, they put the excess back into the budget for next year. But a for-profit company would divide that excess up among its top administrators/partners/shareholders in the form of annual bonuses.

I believe most private schools are not-for-profit.