For the second year in a row, the U.S. Department of Education has compiled a list of the most and least expensive colleges in the country.
Miami University in Southwestern Ohio is among the most expensive public, four-year universities in the nation, and it’s the second most expensive college nationally when measured in net-cost, so taking into account student financial aid. The average net tuition there is $22,303.
Officials at Miami University are quick to point out that the university also has the highest four-year graduation rate among public universities in the state, so while students pay more for those four years they at least don’t have to fork out tuition for a fifth or sixth year as “super seniors.”
Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati also all made it onto the highest net priced colleges list. Among public two-year programs, Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute and the University of Akron’s Wayne College are both among the most expensive in the nation.
Miami University’s Oxford and Hamilton campuses as well as Kent State University’s Salem campus are also among the public universities where net tuition has increased the most over the past few years. Between 2007 and 2010, the average increase in net college cost was 4.7 percent nationwide, but the cost of attending Kent State University at Salem went up 43 percent in that time. Over the same period, Miami University’s Oxford campus net tuition rose 41 percent, and at its Hamilton campus net tuition rose 29 percent.
None of Ohio’s public four or two-year universities were among the lowest priced programs in the country.
U.S. Department of Education official Carmel Martin blames dramatic cuts to student aid programs in Ohio. “If state aid, financial aid, is cut, that has real repercussions,” she says.
Martin says Ohio education officials should take note of these rankings and work to bring the cost of public higher education down.
The Obama administration has made college affordability the center of its education policy, from simplifying the federal financial aid application to increasing certain grants and tax credit programs. States have also been asked to at least not raise the cost of attending college, even if they’re not going to lower it.
Cost Cutting Suggestions
Martin even has a few suggestions of how colleges could cut costs. Working to better align K-12 education with higher education curricula so fewer students end up in remedial classes is one. Discouraging students from taking classes that aren’t in their major and providing the classes they do need, thereby ensuring they can graduate within four years instead of five or six is another. And making better use of technology or campus buildings and other assets may also trim a few bucks.
But, Martin cautions lowering the cost of college should not mean sacrificing quality.
“We’re not looking to reduce the value of a postsecondary education,” she says.
Bryant and Stratton College in Eastlake is among the costliest private universities on the list, but Allegheny Wesleyan College, the University of Phoenix – Cincinnati and Chancellor University are all among the country’s least expensive private programs.
Empowering Students and Families
The idea behind creating these lists is to empower students and their families to choose the best college for them, taking into account just how big of a check they’ll have to write at the end of the day.
When it comes to picking the right college, price is “just a piece of the puzzle,” says Martin, Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development for the U.S. Department of Education. “But we think it’s a really important one that helps consumers make good decisions about college.”
Martin says many people simply choose the college nearest to their home, but the price of higher education continues to creep up while the economy continues to falter. That means the price tag of a degree and the potential debt burden upon graduation are concerns that weigh heavily on the minds of high school graduates and their parents.
Since this is only the second year of the program, Martin says it’s too soon to tell if families are using the data to make better informed decisions when it comes time to choose a college, but she hopes they are.
You can check out the most and least expensive higher education programs for yourself here.