If you went to a private four-year college 30 years ago, you would’ve paid $15,160 per year, according to the College Board.
Today, your tuition fee would be more than twice that amount at $34,740. That number might seem high, but it actually pales in comparison to what some universities are charging.
Starting at No. 7, we’ve ranked the most expensive colleges in the U.S. by annual tuition fees. We’ve also included where each school stands among the best national universities, according to rankings from U.S. News.
7. Tufts University
Annual tuition fee: $54,318
National ranking: No. 29
Tufts University’s undergraduate population of 5,508 might be small, but its tuition fees are not. U.S. News puts the cost at $54,318 per year.
Despite its high price tag, Tufts only gives need-based financial aid to about 36% of its student body.
That said, the school’s need-based grants are sizeable. The average need-based award at Tufts is $41,366, an award that could go a long way toward helping you cover its sky-high tuition costs without taking out private student loans.
6. Franklin and Marshall
Annual tuition fee: $54,380
National ranking: No. 39
A small liberal arts college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Franklin and Marshall traces its 1787 founding back to Benjamin Franklin. Although Franklin’s donation of 200 pounds was enough to start the college, today’s students must pay a good deal more to attend.
Fortunately, Franklin and Marshall pledges to meet 100% of students’ financial need with aid in the form of grants, work-study, and low-interest student loans. About 54% of students received financial aid in 2017, and the average award totaled $42,719, reported U.S. News.
5. Trinity College
Annual tuition fee: $54,770
National ranking: No. 44
Of Trinity College’s 2,259 undergraduates, nearly one-half receive some form of need-based financial aid. Trinity offers a combination of grants, loans, and work-study to help students cover tuition.
If you’re part of the 34% of applicants accepted to this small college, you’ll enjoy a low professor-to-student ratio of 9-to-1. But you’ll have to cover $54,770 per year in tuition, along with an additional $14,200 for room and board if you want to live on campus, according to U.S. News.
4. University of Chicago
Annual tuition fee: $54,825
National ranking: No. 3
Ranked No. 3 in the nation, the University of Chicago is considered one of the best colleges in the country. Along with this prestige comes a high yearly fee of $54,825, reported The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Fortunately, the University of Chicago is putting its $146 million student aid budget to good use with its No Barriers program. Students who qualify get a loan-free financial aid package to help them pay for school and graduate without student debt.
3. Harvey Mudd College
Annual tuition fee: $54,886
National ranking: No. 12 (tied with Vassar College)
With a student population of only 829, STEM-oriented Harvey Mudd is the smallest college on this list. This prestigious liberal arts school in Claremont, California, offers degrees in math, science, and engineering.
About 51% of Harvey Mudd students receive need-based awards. The average need-based grant totals $39,799, according to U.S. News.
While a degree from Harvey Mudd is one of the most expensive in the country, it’s also one of the most valuable. According to PayScale’s 2017-2018 College Salary Report, Harvey Mudd graduates make a median midcareer salary of $155,800.
2. Vassar College
Annual tuition fee: $55,210
National ranking: No. 12 (tied with Harvey Mudd)
If you’re looking for a flexible curriculum, Vassar could be the college for you. Vassar doesn’t have a core curriculum, and students are encouraged to design their own interdisciplinary majors.
But given the fact that Vassar has the second-highest tuition in the country, you probably should have a plan for your degree to make sure your college investment is worth the cost.
That said, Vassar promises generous financial aid packages. Not only does it meet 100% of demonstrated need, but the college also keeps loans to a minimum.
In the 2016-2017 school year, about 60% of its students received aid awards ranging from $1,700 to $65,000, reported Vassar.
1. Columbia University
Annual tuition fee: $57,208
National ranking: No. 5
With a yearly fee close to $60,000, Columbia University tops this list of most expensive colleges in the country.
Although Columbia has the highest tuition cost, its financial aid awards come with a serious perk. The school meets all demonstrated need without the use of student loans.
In other words, Columbia covers financial need with a mix of grants and work-study, which means low-income students don’t have to take on any student loan debt.
And if your parents make $60,000 or less, they won’t be expected to pay anything toward tuition. That said, high living costs in New York City can add up.
Getting into Columbia is a rare achievement. The school lets in only 6% of applicants. If you’re one of them, you’ll have to decide if this Ivy League degree is worth the cost.
How much should you pay for college?
The cost of college has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. If this trend continues unchecked, four years at a private college could cost $487,004 in 2035, according to projections by J.P. Morgan.
Before you get sticker shock, though, note that many students don’t pay full price. Financial aid can go a long way, and some colleges have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages altogether.
If you’ve got your sights set on an expensive college, speak with the financial aid office about your options. Consider other ways to pay for college, such as external scholarships or income from a part-time job.
You also should consider the return on investment of your degree based on your future career goals. A good rule of thumb is to avoid taking on more debt than you expect to make in your first year after graduation.
If costs still seem burdensome, consider attending a more affordable college with lower tuition costs. In the end, your degree is what you make of it, not how much you paid to get it.
If you’re wondering how a student loan is affecting your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.