States With the Most Expensive College Tuition

00 College-516640027
Photo Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Despite a slight drop in college attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the large majority of high school graduates go directly to college upon completing high school. According to data from the National Centers for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment in four-year colleges has more than doubled over the last 50 years, going from a little over five million students in 1970 to nearly 11 million in 2019. At the same time, Census Bureau data shows that the share of the U.S. adult population with a four-year college degree has more than tripled, from 11% in 1970 to 36% in 2019.

Chart1 College enrollment and the share of those with degrees is increasing

For many, a college degree offers the most straightforward path toward securing a job and increasing pay. Research from Georgetown University suggests that 35% of job openings in 2020 required at least a bachelor’s degree and data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a greater than 67% pay difference, on average, between high-school graduates and college degree holders.

While higher levels of education are necessary for many jobs, the cost to get this education has increased dramatically in the last several decades. In 1979, the average annual total cost of attendance—including tuition, fees, room, and board—for full-time undergraduates was $9,307 (in constant 2019-2020 dollars). By 2019, this rate had nearly tripled, to more than $25,000. The result is that currently, the average amount of debt a college graduate owes at graduation is $31,100, up from less than $10,000 in 1970.

Chart2 The cost of college has almost tripled in the last 30 years


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Because of this, it’s not surprising that cost is one of the primary determining factors when considering where to attend college. In fact, roughly four out of every 10 high school students rated cost as “most important” in a recent Fidelity survey. However, a university’s published price is often not a strong indicator of what any individual might actually pay out of pocket to attend, after factoring in the availability of grants and scholarship aid. In recent years, more than 80% of first-time, full-time undergraduates attending four-year colleges received some form of financial aid. So rather than focusing on published sticker prices, prospective students and their families should focus on net price, which better reflects the dollar amount paid by those who can’t afford to pay full price.

To determine the states with the most expensive college tuition, researchers at Self Financial analyzed data from the National Center for Educational Statistics. The researchers ranked states according to the average net price for students awarded aid, defined as the total published price of attendance for full-time, in-state undergraduates less the average amount of grant and scholarship aid received. Researchers also calculated the average published total price, the average published price of tuition, fees, books, and supplies, the average published price of room and board, and total public undergraduate enrollment. Only public, four-year, degree-granting institutions were included in the analysis.

Here are the states with the most expensive college tuition.

States With the Most Expensive College Tuition

15 Kansas Wichita-1708863013
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

15. Kansas

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $16,832
  • Average published total price: $24,126
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $10,200
  • Average published room & board: $13,926
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 65,036

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14 Oregon Portland-783878833
Photo Credit: Bob Pool / Shutterstock

14. Oregon

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $17,006
  • Average published total price: $27,451
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $12,383
  • Average published room & board: $15,068
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 69,780
    13 South Dakota Sioux Falls-1812758470
    Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

    13. South Dakota

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $17,956
  • Average published total price: $22,929
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $10,579
  • Average published room & board: $12,350
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 22,572
    12 Alabama Birmingham-1967284225
    Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

    12. Alabama

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $18,189
  • Average published total price: $27,113
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $11,613
  • Average published room & board: $15,500
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 124,859
    11 Colorado Colorado Springs-1803502903
    Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

    11. Colorado

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $18,247
  • Average published total price: $28,394
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $12,600
  • Average published room & board: $15,793
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 105,475
    10 New Jersey Jersey City-525829738
    Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

    10. New Jersey

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $18,285
  • Average published total price: $33,392
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $16,064
  • Average published room & board: $17,328
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 138,374
    09 Delaware Dover-399798295
    Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

    9. Delaware

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $18,830
  • Average published total price: $29,317
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $14,409
  • Average published room & board: $14,908
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 24,112
    08 Virginia Richmond-450022186
    Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

    8. Virginia

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,043
  • Average published total price: $29,487
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $15,104
  • Average published room & board: $14,383
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 168,178
    07 Ohio Columbus-1202457703
    Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

    7. Ohio

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,110
  • Average published total price: $27,827
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $12,530
  • Average published room & board: $15,297
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 204,670
    06 Massachusetts Cambridge-420794140
    Photo Credit: Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

    6. Massachusetts

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,467
  • Average published total price: $30,290
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $14,823
  • Average published room & board: $15,466
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 90,404
    05 Vermont Montpelier-1712368855
    Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

    5. Vermont

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,510
  • Average published total price: $33,047
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $18,450
  • Average published room & board: $14,596
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 14,870

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04 Connecticut Hartford-223850209
Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

4. Connecticut

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,524
  • Average published total price: $30,847
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $15,079
  • Average published room & board: $15,768
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 44,907
    03 South Carolina Charleston-613242383
    Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

    3. South Carolina

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $19,608
  • Average published total price: $28,825
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $14,600
  • Average published room & board: $14,226
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 93,560
    02 Pennsylvania Harrisburg-397999060
    Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

    2. Pennsylvania

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $20,477
  • Average published total price: $30,299
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $15,183
  • Average published room & board: $15,116
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 131,633
    01 New Hampshire Dover-1768266542
    Photo Credit: Loud Canvas / Shutterstock

    1. New Hampshire

  • Average net price for students awarded aid: $22,976
  • Average published total price: $32,672
  • Average published tuition, fees, books, & supplies: $18,299
  • Average published room & board: $14,373
  • Total public undergraduate enrollment: 21,470

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To determine the states with the most expensive college tuition, researchers at Self Financial analyzed data for the 2019-2020 school year from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES-IPEDS). The researchers ranked states according to the average net price for students awarded aid, defined as the total published price of attendance for full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates paying the in-state tuition rate less the average amount of federal, state or local government, or institutional grant and scholarship aid. Researchers also calculated the average published total price, the average published price of tuition, fees, books, and supplies, the average published price of room and board, and total public undergraduate enrollment. For each state, weighted average pricing statistics were calculated using each institution’s estimated full-time equivalent enrollment. These figures represent the cost for one year of college. Only public, four-year, degree-granting institutions were included in the analysis; online-only institutions were excluded.

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Written on April 15, 2022
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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