The World's Most Expensive Colleges
by Brian Wingfield and Daniel Indiviglio
Washington, D.C. -- With a global recession unfolding, it's tough to come up with funding for college these days, perhaps even more so if your destination is one of the world's most expensive universities.
Aside from the general problem of rising tuition fees, the credit crunch has dented endowments. Not good news for many private American colleges and universities, which are the priciest in the world. The most expensive in terms of tuition and fees: Washington, D.C.'s George Washington University, with a sticker price of $40,437 for the 2008-2009 school year. Others in the top five are Sarah Lawrence College ($40,350), Kenyon College ($40,240), Vassar College ($40,210) and Bucknell University ($36,652).
This shouldn't be too surprising. These schools were also the five most expensive for tuition and fees last year. By contrast, expensive colleges in other countries include Canada's Quest University (about $20,500 for tuition in U.S. dollars), National University of Singapore ($24,000) and Imperial College London ($27,800 for non-British and European Union students).
What about elite Ivies, like Harvard and Yale? They're in the same ballpark--$36,173 for Harvard, $35,300 for Yale--but not quite as pricey as many smaller private schools. Factor in cost of living, books, transportation and other expenses and they're about the same as the U.S. schools listed above. Other institutions, like Carnegie Mellon University, Wesleyan and the University of Chicago are in the same league as far as overall costs go. Bottom line: If you're paying more than $45,000 for a college education, you're attending one of the world's most expensive universities.
American-style universities also fetch the highest dollars abroad. For example, Franklin University, located in the hills above Lugano, Switzerland, is fully accredited in the U.S. It costs $33,100 per year to attend; add another $7,510 for housing and $2,900 for a meal plan, mandatory for all freshmen, according to the school's estimates. The American University of Paris, located near the Eiffel Tower, runs close to $33,000 per year in tuition, fees and health insurance. Need books and a place to live? Budget in another $13,000.
That said, there are still some pretty expensive non-American style schools overseas. The University of Melbourne, is one of the priciest in Australia at about $20,200 per year. The cost of living in Melbourne could tack on another $20,000 to the bill. And the National University of Singapore, considered one of the world's elite schools, is among the most expensive in Asia, at an estimated $31,000 per year.
In compiling our list of the priciest four-year colleges and universities, we relied on The Chronicle of Higher Education's 2008-2009 ranking of tuition and fees for U.S. schools. In many countries, higher education is subsidized by the federal government. However, we scoured dozens of private schools abroad to obtain a snapshot of the priciest colleges overseas.
Last year, readers took us to task for not incorporating financial aid, room and board or a school's estimate of total cost in our rankings. We maintain that tuition and fees are the most transparent aspects of a college's sticker price. Other factors vary too much from school to school. Some charge a comprehensive fee for tuition, room and board; some are more generous than others with financial aid; many don't incorporate travel expenses or the cost of living in places like New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C., in their calculations.
Whatever their differences in cost estimates, the price to attend is going up, even as the economy slows down. For the five U.S. universities with the highest tuition and fees, those items increased by 4.8% from 2007 to 2008. That may sound like a lot, but it's less than the 6% or 7% tuition hikes that schools like Dickinson College and Villanova University have imposed, says the The Chronicle. Meanwhile, university endowments fell by 23% from July to November 2008, according to information released last week by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which surveyed 435 schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Not all news is bad, however. For example, GW plans to increase institutional financial aid this year to about $120 million, from last year's $118 million. Last spring, President Bush signed a bill that increases the amount of federal loans students can apply for by $2,000, taking some of the pressure off the need for pricier private funding. The stimulus plan the House of Representatives passed last week includes a $2,500 tax credit for college tuition and $490 million in funding for work-study programs.
Of course, for students having trouble coming up with the cash for private schools--particularly those who aren't among the most elite--there's always the public route.
"You may find the selective, competitive public colleges are now looking better for those families," says Bruce Johnstone, a professor of comparative education at the State University of New York-Buffalo.
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