Dec 1, 2014

It costs how much? 20 colleges with the highest room and board costs

Harvey Mudd College
If you haven’t visited a college recently, you might really be surprised at the glamorous new
residence halls and related amenities that grace today’s campuses.

And the term is “residence hall” not dormitory, as colleges prefer the marketing feel of the former and not the latter more limiting designation for a home away from home.

“At Mizzou, we call our buildings ‘residence halls’ rather than ‘dorms.’ We do this because our buildings contain dynamic communities that contribute to each student's overall learning experience—intellectual, cultural, social, emotional, and spiritual,” explains the University of Missouri.  “Our students do more than just sleep here. They LIVE here.”

And at Ball State University, students will find new or recently renovated residence halls that provide “the home-like environment students request.”  In fact, some halls feature semiprivate bathrooms, as well as “in-house computer labs, low-cost laundry areas, fitness centers, study lounges, free cable TV, fast wired and wireless computer connections, and on-site room repairs.”

But none of this comes free.

According the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average list price of room and board at public four-year institutions is $9,804.  Compare that figure with the average list price of tuition and fees for in-state students at these same institutions, which totaled only slightly less for 2014-15 or  $9,139.

It’s clear that different colleges interpret the cost of room and board differently.  At Michigan State, for example, the published amount for “room” is the price of the average double room on campus.  “Board” is a meal plan that provides all-you-can-eat food during the dining-hall hours.

And prices tend to rise, particularly as colleges have discovered that room and board can amount to a significant profit center for the institution.  And while increases in tuition are typically paired with increases in financial aid, increases in living expenses—including room and board—are typically absorbed by students.

But it turns out that room and board isn’t so much driven by quality or specific amenities as by type of institution—public or private—and by region.  Judging from the numbers compiled by the Chronicle in its very useful interactive tool, the cost of room and board is most expensive at private colleges and in New York, Boston, and California.

In fact, out of the 20 public institutions with highest room and board costs, 13 may be found in California.

Locally, room and board expenses vary considerably with Catholic University ($14,518), American University ($14,408), Johns Hopkins University ($14,246) and Georgetown University ($14,021) charging the most among private institution.  For public institutions, St. Mary’s College of Maryland ($11,930), Towson University ($11,260), the University of Mary Washington ($10,914), the University of Maryland-College Park ($10,633) and Salisbury University ($10,620) are the highest.

For the record, the following 20 colleges and universities have posted the highest room and board costs in the country:
  1. New School, NY:  $20,190
  2. Berklee College of Music, MA:  $17,372
  3. Boston Conservatory, MA:  $17,120
  4. New York University, NY:  $16,782
  5. Pace University, NY:  $16,600
  6. St. John’s University, NY:  $16,390
  7. Fordham University, NY:  16,325
  8. Hellenic College, MA:  $16,192
  9. Harvey Mudd College, CA:  $15,833
  10. San Francisco Art Institute, CA:  $15,666
  11. Emerson College, MA:  $15,596
  12. Bastyr University, WA:  $15,550
  13. University of California at Berkeley, CA:  $15,438
  14. Suffolk University, MA:  $15,266
  15. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, MA:  $15,200
  16. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, NY:  $15,120
  17. University of California at Merced, CA:  $15,035
  18. University of California at Riverside, CA:  $15,000
  19. Smith College, MA:  $14,950
  20. Roger Williams University, RI:  $14,864

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