Department of Education Names Most and Least Expensive Colleges

In an economy that has seen the cost of higher education increase exponentially, the idea of college tuition costing less than $500 may seem implausible. However, at Haskell Indian Nations University, a small public school that offers primarily associate degrees in Lawrence, Kan., myth is reality. The university charges a modest $430 for a semester of tuition, making it the least expensive four-year school in the United States, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Education (DoE).

The data is part of an updated list from the DoE’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, which aims to increase transparency around the cost of higher education. The report, the second of its kind, includes 4,165 institutions from across the United States. The schools are separated into seven lists, which are:

  • Highest tuition and fees
  • Highest average net price
  • Lowest tuition and fees
  • Lowest average net price
  • Highest percentage increases in tuition and fees
  • Highest percentage increases in average net price
  • All title IV institutions

The schools are also separated by sectors, which includes four-year public, four-year private non- and for-profit, and two-year institutions.

“We want to arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, in a DoE press release. “Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives. These lists are a major step forward in unraveling the mystery of higher education pricing.”

With a cost of tuition of $805, Dine College in Tzaile, Ariz. was the second least expensive public, four-year school in the United States. On the other end of the ledger, Pennsylvania State University – Main Campus and University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus were the most expensive public, four-year schools with a cost of tuition of $15,250 and $14,936, respectively. Meanwhile, Connecticut College was the most expensive private, non-profit school with tuition costing $43,990, and Berea College was the least expensive at $910. The national average tuition for private, non-profit schools is $21,949, according to the DoE.

The College Affordability and Transparency Center’s data shows that the national average increase of tuition is 15% for public four-year schools from the 2008-09 to 2010-11 academic years. The University of the District of Columbia’s tuition increased by 123%, the most of all four-year public university’s in the United States. Meanwhile, the Hacienda La Puente Adult Education, a public, less-than-two-year school in California, saw its tuition costs increase 1,100%, the most of any school in the list.

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