Most Expensive US College Runs $79,539 per Year

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Source: Mark Miester, “When Less Is More,”, Oct. 23, 2004

The most expensive college in the United States, Harvey Mudd College, has an annual price tag of nearly $80,000.

The $79,539 total cost of attendance for the Claremont, CA, private school includes $58,359 for tuition, $10,234 for a double dorm room, $8,455 for 16 meals per week, $1,400 for personal expenses, $800 for books and other supplies, and $301 in student body fees. Not all of Harvey Mudd’s 889 students pay the sticker price for their educations, however: approximately 73% receive financial aid, and 48% receive need-based aid. The average amount of financial aid per student is $42,080.

Increased earnings potential is one of the top pro arguments in the debate over whether college is worth it. Harvey Mudd tops the list of PayScale’s highest-paying bachelor’s degrees, with graduates earning an average of $157,400 after ten years in the work force. Students from MIT, the US Naval Academy, Stanford, and Caltech round out the top 5 highest-paying degrees, all earning over $143,000 on average.

The average cost of attending college in the United States for the 2018-2019 school year was $48,510 at a private school and $21,370 at a public school.

The con side of the college debate references crippling student loan debt. Nearly 20 million students are heading to college in fall 2019. In spring 2020, colleges expect to award 989,000 associates degrees and 1,975,000 bachelor’s degrees, plus about a million graduate degrees. Meanwhile, the class of 2018 graduated with an average student loan debt of $29,800 per student. 44.7 million Americans collectively owe more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should college be so expensive? Why or why not?

2. Should college be tuition-free? Why or why not?

3. Is a college education worth it? Why or why not?


Abigail Hess, “It Costs almost $80,000 to go to the Most Expensive College in the US—but Here’s How Much Students Actually Pay,”, Aug, 11, 2019

National Center for Education Statistics, “Back to School Statistics,” (accessed Aug. 12, 2019)

PayScale, “The Best Universities for a Bachelor’s Degree,” (accessed Aug. 12, 2019)

PayScale, “Payscale’s 2018-19 College Salary Report,” (accessed Aug. 12, 2019)

Michael B. Sauter, “Here’s the Average Cost of College Tuition Every Year since 1971,”, May 18, 2019