Looking for a college bargain? Try any of nine University of Puerto Rico
campuses, where annual tuition hovers at or below $2,000.
Counting pennies? Avoid Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, a private school
where tuition, fees and room and board exceeds $50,000, making it one of the
five most expensive schools on a new U.S. Department of Education guide to
The federal agency released its College Affordability and Transparency lists
on Thursday to fulfill a reporting requirement passed into law in 2008. The
online lists track tuition costs among the top and bottom 5 percent of
four-year and two-year schools. The measures include public, private and
for-profit colleges and universities.
Separate lists show the most and least affordable schools when scholarships
and other financial factors are considered. The Education Department says
those “sticker prices” better reflect out-of-pocket attendance costs. Two
other lists track the rate of tuition increases as well as the rate of
increase in the average net price. And career college users interested in a
specific track can search by their area of interest, such as cosmetology or
“Given the energy and commitment that families make to the process ... this
information is very useful,” said David Bergeron, the Education Department’s
deputy assistant secretary for policy, planning and innovation.
Education officials also acknowledged the data’s limitations. For instance,
the attendance costs that elevated Bates and four other East Coast liberal
arts schools to the top of the private school heap include fees other than
tuition that their peer institutions calculate separately.
And while the new lists highlight schools at the very top and bottom, they
don’t account for the other 90 percent of institutions — though individual
costs and other details can still be found using links on the department’s
College Navigator website.
Among four-year public schools, the University of Texas Health Sciences
Center at San Antonio ranks at the top for highest net price, with annual
costs of $24,192 in 2008-09. The University of Guam is second-highest, $290
below the Texas medical school.
Sitting Bull College in North Dakota, which has campuses in Fort Yates and
McLaughlin, tops the list of most affordable four-year schools, with a net
price of just $938. That’s compared to a national average of $10,747.
On tuition costs alone, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.,
tops the list of four-year public schools, charging just $430 a year,
compared to the national average of $6,397. That data comes from the 2009-10
school year, one year more current than the net price data. But both of
those schools are tribal colleges where attendance is generally limited to
those of Native American ancestry — a caveat not readily found on the
Department of Education site.
The new reporting standard requires schools with the highest costs or
largest increases to justify the reasons behind the rising costs, and offer
plans to address the increases. The specific reporting requirements are
still being developed.
Starting Friday, new rules also require career and vocational colleges to
disclose more details about their programs, including graduation rates,
typical loan debts and job placement rates. Such for-profit schools must
describe that information on promotional material as well as online.