What are the Most Expensive Colleges and Universities Around the World and Are They the Best?

Higher education comes at a premium. Unless you manage to procure a full scholarship or bursary, the fees can run as high as $80K or more per year for undergraduate tuition. Those looking for Ivy League schools should prepare to pay more than $20K per semester in the USA, known to house some of the most expensive colleges on the planet.

However, the published costs are not always accurate. Nearly every student gets financial aid of some sort. For instance, Harvey Mudd College tuition is a bank-shattering $78,000 without any aid. More than 80% of their students receive scholarships and grants that decrease the average fee paid at the college down to around $33K per student. This way, parents needn’t be millionaires before they can send their kids to study.

This list of the most expensive colleges in the world will be based upon this “after assistance” average. With or without this calculation, the seven most costly colleges can all be found in the USA.

The 7 Most Expensive Colleges in the World (Average Cost After Aid)

Fee structures vary a bit from year to year, so it’s challenging to formulate a top list of colleges by “cost” that is 100% accurate. However, the competition for the most expensive college is fierce at the top, and each of the following institutions is within a hair’s breadth of the next.

7. Dartmouth College – $32K Average

Dartmouth College is an Ivy League research university ranked among America’s most prestigious higher learning institutions. Founded in 1769, it initially offered undergraduate studies in liberal arts. There are now over 40 departments and programs at this distinguished campus.

Dartmouth makes it onto the most expensive college list because of its $32,000 average costs after scholarships are accounted for. Without assistance, it would cost closer to $79,000. However, the university has an impressive 95% pass rate with a tight 9% acceptance ratio. This makes it one of the most sought-after colleges in the States.

6. The University of Southern California – $33K Average

The University of Southern California is the oldest private research university in California, founded in 1880. It comprises a Dornsife College of Letter, Arts, and Sciences and a liberal arts school with world-renowned undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has matriculated more Emmy and Oscar Award-winning alums than any other college in the world and has schooled 29 living billionaires. It boasts a graduation rate of 92% with an acceptance ratio of 16%.

As one of the most expensive colleges in the world, classes range from $65K to $85K, unaided. Thankfully, notable scholarships are available to those who need them, bringing the average tuition at USC down to $33K per student.

5. Harvey Mudd College – $33K Average

Harvey Mudd College ranks along with universities such as Caltech and MIT for its science and engineering programs. This private college enrolls around 900 undergraduate students with an acceptance rate of 19% – with an emphasis on recruiting underserved communities. This expensive college has seven core departments, including Biology, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics.

Without aid, your education here could reach as high as $80K for the bachelor’s program. This cements its spot on our most expensive college list.

4. Sarah Lawrence University – $36K Average

New York is a state filled with prestigious universities, not least Sarah Lawrence College, a private university focused on liberal arts. Its approach differs from traditional American colleges and follows the form of British universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Students learn in a more intimate environment that lends more toward one-on-one tutorials.

Surprisingly, the closer tutorial setting has not elevated the graduation rate, lingering at 73%. However, the college’s 55% acceptance rate negatively impacts the graduation rate, while making it one of the most accessible schools on this list.

The average tuition across the student body stands at around $36K, but leaps to $75,000 without aid.

3. Tufts University – $37K Average

Tufts University has been around since 1852 and is a private research university in Massachusetts. This prestigious school manages an average tuition of $37,000. Without assistance, parents must fork up to $79K for their kids to attend class and earn their degrees.

The college offers various anthropological courses, architectural engineering, applied physics, mathematics, and computer science. It boasts an admirable 93% pass rate with a strict acceptance rate of around 16%.

2. New York University – $40K Average

NYU was chartered in 1831 by the New York State Legislature. Over the centuries, the university has become one of the foremost colleges in America, and one of the world’s most expensive. You can expect to cough up around $77.5K for a graduate program. Even with scholarships and aid considered, the university is the second most expensive college, with an average fee of $39,000 to $40,000.

The acceptance rate at NYU is around 21%, with a mediocre graduation rate of 85%.

1. Parsons School of Design – $47K Average

While Parsons School of Design’s average unaided tuition rate of $68K a year may not be the most expensive university, the evaluation changes when you look at financial aid. The average post-aid cost is a whopping $47K. That is a tremendous amount of money to pay for a career in design and art.

The college is operated as a campus affiliate of “The New School.” It is based in Manhattan, New York, and as of 2016, accepts around 35% of its applicants.

Is the Most Expensive College the Best One?

If you know anything about education, you might be looking at the list above and wonder why there is no mention of MIT, Oxford University, Cambridge, Stanford, Harvard, or even Caltech. After all, these are commonly referred to as leading institutes for higher learning. Well, the truth is, the best colleges are not necessarily the most expensive ones.

Colleges and universities are ranked worldwide yearly for their performance in education. The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World Rankings are one of the clearest indicators of the best educational institutes around the globe.

University/College Q.S. Score Average Fees After Aid
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) 100 $11K
2 The University of Cambridge (U.K.) 98.8 $11K
3 Stanford University (USA) 98.5 $13K
4 The University of Oxford (U.K.) 98.4 $11K
5 Harvard University (USA) 97.6 $14K
6= California Institute of Technology (USA) 97 $27K
6= Imperial College (U.K.) 97 $11K
8 University College London (U.K.) 95 $11K
9 ETH Zurich (Swiss) 93.6 $20K+
10 University of Chicago (USA) 93.2 $29K

The above rankings are taken from 1,300 universities around the world and are assessed according to 6 key metrics:

  • Academic reputation: Pass rates and academic level counts for 40% of the score.
  • Employer reputation: How well the students are prepared for employment
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: More faculty means a higher student engagement level.
  • Citations per faculty: The total number of academic citation papers produced.
  • International student ratio: Recognises the college’s ability to draw students worldwide.
  • International faculty ratio: Recognises the college’s ability to draw professors worldwide.

Thankfully, America’s education system has one of the best levels of education in the world. However, none of the most expensive U.S. colleges mentioned in our introductory listing rates are in the top 10 for the QS World Rankings.


The best institutes are not necessarily the most expensive colleges. Instead, the most sought-after facilities are usually the most difficult to get into. Places like Harvard only have a 5% acceptance rate, while Harvey Mudd has an 18% acceptance rate.

The level of difficulty getting into a university also seems to indicate a better likelihood you will land a job. It’s not based on how much you paid to get educated. Half the employment selection process is undertaken at the college level when you attend schools like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, and Columbia.

This shows that the effort you put into your schooling and the positive reputation you build for yourself trumps the amount of money your parents can afford when it comes to receiving the most prestigious placements.

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This article was produced by PokCas and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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