20 Most Expensive Colleges in 2024

In 1950, attending the University of Pennsylvania cost $600 per year, roughly equivalent to $6,000 in today’s money. Fast forward to 2024, and Penn’s annual cost has skyrocketed to over $83,000. Similarly, by 1960, most private institutions charged $1,500 to $2,000 annually, which translates to $12,000 to $16,000 today. Nowadays, a $50,000 annual tuition is considered “reasonable” in the current educational landscape. This trend isn’t limited to private schools—the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, known for its affordability, now charges in-state tuition/fees of $9,000, a stark contrast to the mere $504 per year thirty years ago.

But why is college so expensive in 2024?

In short, public universities face rising costs due to decreased state funding compared to previous decades. Meanwhile, for private institutions, factors like increased administrative expenses, market forces, and the disconnect between sticker prices and actual costs contribute to the financial strain.

However, when we delve into the list of the 20 Most Expensive Colleges, it’s essential to understand that it’s not merely a spectacle to attract attention or a means of condemning institutions. Many of the schools on this list are incredibly generous with financial aid, making education accessible to economically disadvantaged and first-generation students. Despite the high tuition fees, these well-endowed universities are committed to affordability and inclusivity.

Also see 10 Best Colleges in Vancouver 2024

Methodology for Determining the Most Expensive Colleges

Our methodology for determining the most expensive colleges takes a comprehensive approach, considering more than just tuition fees. While many lists focus solely on tuition costs, we believe it’s essential to provide a fuller picture of the financial burden students face. Therefore, we factor in the total cost of attendance, which encompasses not only tuition but also fees, housing, food, books, and potentially other expenses like transportation and personal items.

All tuition figures provided are for the 2022-23 academic year unless otherwise specified. Although some 2023-24 data is available, we chose to utilize the previous year’s figures for consistency and comparability across institutions. This ensures that our analysis accurately reflects the financial landscape of higher education.

Also read 15 Best Law Schools in California 2024

20 Most Expensive Colleges in 2024

University of Pennsylvania

Penn ensures that all eligible students receive 100% of demonstrated financial need, with average annual grants totaling $54,000. Even for students paying the full sticker price, Penn’s robust starting salaries mitigate the impact of loans for most graduates.

  • Tuition & Fees: $63,452
  • Full COA: $83,298

Brown University

Brown University covers 100% of demonstrated need for students receiving need-based grants, with an average grant exceeding $57,000 per year. Despite the high cost, Brown’s academic excellence justifies its substantial price tag.

  • Tuition & Fees: $65,146
  • Full COA: $83,231

University of Chicago

For the 36% of current UChicago students eligible for financial aid, the university meets 100% of demonstrated need, resulting in an average annual grant of $57,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,940
  • Full COA: $82,848

Reed College

Over half of Reed College students qualify for need-based aid, receiving average annual aid packages of $52,000. While Reed offers a superb academic experience, students without need-based aid or significant family resources may need to carefully consider the substantial tuition costs.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,730
  • Full COA: $82,660

Georgetown University

Georgetown prioritizes providing substantial grants to students with genuine financial need. More than one-third of undergraduates receive need-based aid, with the university meeting 100% of demonstrated need, resulting in an average annual grant of approximately $50,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,052
  • Full COA: $82,505

Wesleyan University

While a small percentage of students receive significant merit aid, need-based aid is predominant at Wesleyan. The university meets 100% of demonstrated need for qualifying students, with an average grant of $60,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $64,022
  • Full COA: $82,395

Harvey Mudd College

Approximately 70% of Harvey Mudd College students receive financial aid, with an average award of $44,000. The college also offers merit awards to 17% of freshmen, making attendance feasible for many students from lower- and middle-income families.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,817
  • Full COA: $82,236

Yale University

Yale’s $42 billion endowment enables the university to meet 100% of demonstrated need for all eligible students, with an average grant of $65,000, significantly reducing the overall cost of attendance.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,250
  • Full COA: $82,170

Wellesley College

With an annual cost of attendance of $81,000, Wellesley College provides substantial need-based aid to 57% of students, meeting 100% of demonstrated need for this group. The average need-based grant amounts to $60,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $61,920
  • Full COA: $82,090

Wake Forest

Wake Forest offers need-based aid to 25% of undergraduates, with 97% of recipients having their full demonstrated need met, resulting in an average annual grant of $56,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,128
  • Full COA: $81,856

Columbia University

Columbia ensures that all eligible students receive an aid package covering 100% of their demonstrated financial need, averaging over $61,000 annually. However, the university does not offer merit aid, meaning students without financial need will be required to pay the full annual cost of attendance.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,570
  • Full COA: $81,680

Dartmouth College

For the Class of 2025, Dartmouth College awarded an average annual scholarship of $69,000, covering 100% of demonstrated financial need for every student. Despite its high cost, Dartmouth’s exceptional academic reputation justifies its price tag.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,430
  • Full COA: $81,662

University of Southern California

Nearly two-thirds of undergraduates at USC receive some form of financial aid, with all qualifying students having their demonstrated need fully met. USC’s strong alumni network and connections enhance career prospects for many graduates.

  • Tuition & Fees: $64,726
  • Full COA: $81,659

Washington University

in St. Louis With a standard cost of attendance of $80,000 for freshmen, WashU meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for qualifying undergraduates, providing an average annual grant of $55,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $60,590
  • Full COA: $81,620

Haverford College

Haverford meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for qualifying students, with an average annual grant of nearly $58,000 awarded to 44% of attending students, making the school affordable for those from diverse economic backgrounds.

  • Tuition & Fees: $63,348
  • Full COA: $81,522

Vassar College

Over half of Vassar’s undergraduate student population qualifies for financial aid, with the college meeting 100% of demonstrated need for all students. The average grant exceeds $51,000, making Vassar accessible for students from less advantaged economic circumstances.

  • Tuition & Fees: $64,800
  • Full COA: $81,280

Tulane University

Despite its official cost of attendance, many students receive merit or need-based aid, significantly reducing the financial burden. On average, Tulane covers $40,000 in grants for eligible students, making attendance more feasible.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,844
  • Full COA: $81,232

Southern Methodist University

SMU meets 86% of demonstrated financial need and provides generous merit scholarships, averaging $31,000 for qualifying first-year students. Overall, 72% of undergraduates receive some form of grant or scholarship.

  • Tuition & Fees: $61,980
  • Full COA: $81,074

Franklin and Marshall College

For the 58% of undergraduates demonstrating financial need, Franklin and Marshall College ensures that 100% of their financial need is met, with an average grant exceeding $52,000. However, the college does not offer merit-based aid.

  • Tuition & Fees: $65,844
  • Full COA: $80,811

Oberlin College

Oberlin joins the ranks of colleges meeting 100% of all undergraduates’ demonstrated need. Last year, approximately 80% of undergraduates received some form of aid, with an average grant of $32,000.

  • Tuition & Fees: $61,965
  • Full COA: $80,705

Barnard College

Barnard College ensures that students on the lower end of the income scale have 100% of their demonstrated need covered, receiving an annual grant of $51,000. This equitable approach significantly reduces the average debt carried by Barnard graduates compared to the national average.

  • Tuition & Fees: $62,525
  • Full COA: $80,693


The cost of attending college continues to rise, with many institutions charging substantial tuition and fees. However, it’s essential to recognize that these high costs often come with significant financial aid opportunities for students in need. Institutions like Franklin and Marshall College, Oberlin College, and Barnard College demonstrate a commitment to meeting the financial needs of their students, ensuring that a college education remains accessible to all. As students navigate the college application process, it’s crucial to consider not only the sticker price but also the financial aid packages and support available at each institution. By carefully weighing these factors, students can make informed decisions about their higher education journey.