Dec 18, 2010

The Top 20 Priciest College Dorms

In DC and beyond, the college amenities war is escalating. Despite a rotten economy and increased evidence that cost contributes significantly to high dropout rates, colleges continue in their pursuit of ever more luxurious and attractive living space for undergrads.

In late October, the College Board reported the average price for room and board rose by 4.6 percent at public and 3.9 percent at private colleges for the 2010-11 academic year. And this is a trend. Over the last decade, room and board charges have risen more than 24 percentage points faster than the average living costs of nonstudents.

Why would this be? Colleges claim that student demands for fancier, bigger, and more technologically advanced accommodations have driven up dorm costs. And they’ve responded with glitzy new residence halls that offer loads of extras including free Wi-Fi, fitness centers, cable, air conditioning, large common areas, and even concierge staff.

But it’s not all the fault of the students. Colleges are also increasingly looking toward room and board as potential profit centers to make up for needs in other areas of campus budgets.

According to a list compiled by Campus Grotto, Eugene Lang College, in New York, boasts the most expensive college dorms for the second year in a row with room and board totaling $17,110 (up from $15,990 last year). Berkeley rose from number four to number two by increasing average room and board by $924 to $15,308, with Suffolk University in Boston solidly hanging on to third place at $14,624. Locally, American University remained at number 16, with room and board totaling $13,430 per year.

But in all fairness, the list slants toward colleges located in the most expensive areas of the country in which to live. Only four of the top twenty are located outside of California or New York.

Using prices a typical freshman will pay for a standard double room, the following are the top twenty most expensive room and board plans as listed by Campus Grotto:

  1. Eugene Lang College, NY: $17,110

  2. UC Berkeley, CA: $15,308

  3. Suffolk University, MA: $14,624

  4. Fordham University-Lincoln Center, NY: $14,614

  5. Fordham University-Rose Hill, NY: $14,491

  6. UC Santa Cruz, CA: $14,172

  7. St. John’s University, NY: $14,000

  8. Manhattanville College, NY: $13,920

  9. Sarah Lawrence College, NY: $13,820

  10. Pace University, NY: $13,800

  11. UCLA, CA: $13,734

  12. Cooper Union, NY: $13,700

  13. Chapman University, CA: $13,510

  14. NYU, NY: $13,507

  15. Franklin Olin College, MA: $13,500

  16. American University, DC: $13,430

  17. Marymount Manhattan College, NY: $13,416

  18. Harvey Mudd College, CA: $13,198

  19. Drexel University, PA: $13,125

  20. UC Santa Barbara, CA: $13,109

When it comes time to finalize decisions about which colleges on your list make most “economic” sense, check out the cost of room and board. It’s a huge part of the total expense, particularly among colleges requiring on-campus residency for any part of your college career.


  1. Hi Nancy,
    I'm a student at Eugene Lang, and I thought I should mention two things. Firstly, the prices listed here are for the /most expensive/ apartments in dorms. The price listed here is the cost for a single room, with a bathtub (the bathtub alone adds $1000!), in a brand new dorm in Stuyvesant Town. Most students don't pay over $12,000. Also, for a lot of students, the cost of dorms is factored into financial aid, so New School (the University Lang is part of) pays some or a lot of the cost.
    Secondly, a lot of students move of campus for their upperclassman years, so pay a lot less. I pay under $5,000 a year for my own room (with a bath :) in an apartment off campus). It's still a lot of money, but cheap considering I live in the most happening place on the planet. Also, for NYU or other urban campuses, most students will be on campus for four years, so that's a lot more expensive.
    Thirdly, Campus Grotto is actually (and I'm surprised most college counselors don't know this) set up and funded by the University of Phoenix. So it's hardly objective :)

  2. Thanks for the clarification. The data provided was supposed to be for a "standard" double room. Clearly you have the inside scoop, and New York is definitely a pricey place to live.