50-50 Highlights: Most Expensive Colleges

stack of money representing most expensive collegesThe point of the 50-50 schools list is to identify colleges and universities that are accessible to most students while meeting a minimum standard for college graduation. However, just because a school is academically accessible doesn’t mean that students can afford to attend. Some of the most expensive colleges make the list. Like colleges and universities in general, colleges on the 50-50 list vary dramatically in their financial aid generosity.

The fact is that some 50-50 colleges will end up costing families significantly more than others. However, you can’t simply tell which are the most expensive colleges by comparing tuition and fees or the average cost of attendance. As in the case of the airline industry, few people actually pay the sticker price. A better comparison is the Average Net Price after Gift Aid.

How to Spot the Most Expensive Colleges

The Average Net Price After Gift Aid (I’ll refer to as net price from now on) is the average amount freshman paid after deducting all gift aid including grants and scholarships. It does not include loans or work-study. When net price is broken down by income, it only includes students who received some form of federal financial aid, including federal student loans. This means the net price calculations by family income doesn’t include students who pay full-price or received only merit scholarships from the institution.

In general, the college itself is the largest provider of gift aid, grants and scholarships, rather than any other outside sources. Since student loans are not included, looking at the average net price after gift aid gives a general idea of the generosity of the institution.

Of course, any individual could receive a substantially different amount than the average, but that’s the nature of averages.

High Average Net Price=More Expensive College

Among 281 private 50-50 schools, the unweighted average for the average net price was $26,648. A total of 75 private colleges had an average of $30,000 or greater. Of the 206 with less than $30,000 average net price, 116 were under $25,000.

Of the 175 public 50-50 schools, the unweighted average for net price was $15,820. There were 57 public schools with an average net price greater than $17,000. Twenty schools had averages over $20,000, with seven of the most expensive colleges in Pennsylvania.

Yet, Pennsylvania had the most private colleges with an average net price under $25,000 with a total of 13. Ohio came in second with 11 while Indiana and New York tied with ten each.

California has the most 50-50 private colleges with average net prices greater than $30,000 at 12. Massachusetts can in second with nine.  New York came in third with 7 and Pennsylvania next with 4.

Of course, since Pennsylvania has the most 50-50 colleges overall, it’s not surprising it ends up appearing often on the various 50-50 list categories-both good and bad. In the case of public universities with an average net price greater than $17,000, the state leads the list with 12. This is more than twice the number of the states with the second most, Ohio and Virginia, with six each.

Less Generous Merit and Need-Based Aid

The higher the average net price, the less likely the students are to receive merit aid, or if they do, they receive much smaller amounts. Students with significant financial need are likely to gapped, especially if their academic qualifications don’t put them in the top third of the class.

However, it’s not unusual for some of these schools to provide attractive merit aid. They do this to attract more paying students but end up providing even less money to students with financial need.

The following table lists the most expensive colleges on the 50-50 list. The first tab shows all 50-50 private colleges with an average net price after gift aid of $30,000 or greater. The second tab lists the top all 50-50 public schools with an average net price of $17,000 or greater (students paying in-state tuition only). As usual, the five-year graduation rate is used for public institutions and the four-year rate is used for the private schools.

Most Expensive Colleges

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