Top 10 priciest colleges … and the cheapest

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No matter how much money you’ve got in your bank account, pricing out a year at college can cause anyone to go into sticker shock. True, it’s an investment that pays dividends over a lifetime, but upfront costs are an important consideration for anyone thinking of going to school. Tuition alone can top $30,000 at some private colleges.

On average, the price of a private college is about four times that of a public university. And while there are plenty of exceptions, good schools can command higher tuition than their less-celebrated peers.

“Like anything else, it’s supply and demand,” says Jeff Selingo, business and politics editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. With more students graduating from high school — and a college degree considered essential to securing a good job — colleges are able to charge more for their services.

While the sticker prices are surprising, they’re not the full story, says Selingo.

“Few people actually pay what is advertised,” he says. “What also goes into that is federal and state financial aid, college scholarships and institutional aid. There’s a lot of money that’s immediately deducted from that price.”

Listed below are the most expensive colleges — as well as those that will make the smallest impact on your pocketbook.

All of the figures are based on tuition and required fees charged to first-time, full-time undergraduates at four-year undergraduate colleges and universities that award at least half their baccalaureate degrees in liberal arts fields and are based on a nine-month academic year of 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours. The numbers represent 2004-05 costs gathered by the College Board. Prices for public colleges and universities are for in-state residents.

Most expensive private schools
1. Sarah Lawrence College — Bronxville, N.Y. $32,416
2. Kenyon College — Gambier, Ohio $32,170
3. Trinity College — Hartford, Conn. $31,940
4. George Washington University — Washington. $31,710
5. Hamilton College — Clinton, N.Y. $31,700
6. Bowdoin College — Brunswick, Maine $31,656
7. Wesleyan University — Middletown, Conn. $31,650
8. Columbia University — New York $31,472
9. Colgate University — Hamilton, N.Y. $31,440
10. Pitzer College – Claremont, Calif. $31,438
Most expensive public schools
1. Penn State University — University Park, Pa. $10,856
2. University of Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh $10,830
3. University of Vermont — Burlington, Vt. $10,226
4. University of New Hampshire — Durham, N.H. $9,226
5. New Jersey Institute of Technology — Newark, N.J. $9,180
6. Temple University — Philadelphia, Pa. $9,102
7. University of Massachusetts — Amherst, Mass. $9,008
8. Rutgers University — New Brunswick, N.J. $8,564
9. University of Cincinnati — Cincinnati $8,379
10. Rutgers University — Newark, N.J. $8,209
Least expensive private schools
1. National Hispanic University — San Jose, Calif. $4,610
2. Arkansas Baptist College — Little Rock, Ark. $5,074
3. Talladega College — Talladega, Ala. $7,128
4. Lane College — Jackson, Tenn. $7,176
5. Tougaloo College — Tougaloo, Miss. $8,375
6. Judson College — Marion, Ala. $9,420
7. Paine College — Augusta, Ga. $9,624
8. St. Augustine College — Raleigh, N.C. $10,388
9. Barber-Scotia College — Concord, N.C. $10,686
10. Wesleyan College — Macon, Ga. $10,900
Least expensive public schools
1. University of Nevada — Reno, Nev. $2,682
2. Florida State University — Tallahassee, Fla. $2,890
3. San Diego State University — San Diego $2,936
4. University of Florida — Gainesville, Fla. $2,955
5. Florida Atlantic University — Boca Raton, Fla. $3,092
6. Texas A&M University — Kingsville, Texas $3,109
7. Florida International University — Miami $3,156
8. University of South Florida — Tampa, Fla. $3,167
9. University of Central Florida — Orlando, Fla. $3,180
10. University of Nevada — Las Vegas $3,210