College acceptance letters start hitting students’ inboxes this month, as teenagers around the country finally learn whether they’ll be attending Dream U or Back Up State this fall.
Millions of students will be accepted at more than one school, and their decisions on where to attend will be based on a variety of factors, not least of which is cost.
Those costs can be daunting. The average published price for tuition and room and board at a four-year private school is $45,370, according to The College Board, but at the priciest schools students paying full freight will have to pony up nearly $25,000 more than that.
According to our analysis of the most recent data from the Chronicle of Higher Education and College Factual, the most expensive college in America is Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. A year at its sunny campus will cost an eye-popping $69,717 -- $52,666 for tuition and $17,051 for room and board. Coming in second is Columbia University at $68,405, and the University of Chicago is third on the list at $67,584.
Most students, of course, won’t pay that much. Nearly nine in 10 first-time, full-time freshmen at private universities receive some sort of institutional aid, with the average award amounting to 49 percent of tuition and fees, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Colleges often use big tuition discounts in the form of financial aid packages as a means of competing for students to boost their enrollment numbers and look better on college rankings. But that may backfire if the sticker price ends up scaring away potential customers.
More than two thirds of families factored the price of a college when narrowing their list of schools, and 55 percent eliminate schools from their list before the even began the college application process, according to Sallie Mae.