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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 03/29/2010

More colleges join $50K-plus a year club

By Valerie Strauss

The first recorded annual tuition at the first college founded in the United States was one pound, six shillings and eight pence--or about $152 in today’s dollars. That’s what students at Harvard paid in 1654.

Next year, Harvard students who don’t qualify for any financial aid will pay the new sticker price of $50,724 for tuition, room and board and fees, as the university moves into the ranks of those schools charging more than $50,000 a year.

True, it isn’t much more than the $48,868 that was this year’s full price, and true, most students receive some financial aid. But $50,000 is a symbolic marker, one that is expected to frighten many parents away from these schools before learning that they could get significant aid.

And more private schools are crossing the threshold for the 2010-11 school year. According to the Boston Globe in this story , the number of colleges in the Boston region alone that charge that much is expected to more than double.

Some schools already in the club are Smith College, Boston College, Tufts University and Boston University. Among those joining next year, along with Harvard, are Dartmouth College, Wellesley College, Brown University and Brandeis University.

Despite all of the lamenting about the high price of college keeping out middle and low-income families, schools still raise their prices every year, a result of factors including increasing technology costs and plunging endowments.

Last November, the Chronicle of Higher Education did an analysis that showed that 58 private colleges were charging at least $50,000 for tuition, room and board and fees.

This year, schools that broke the barrier outside of the greater Boston region include Johns Hopkins University, Washington University in St. Louis, Bryn Mawr College and Skidmore College.

The year before? For the 2008-09 school year, only five schools charged that much.

A report on college pricing by the College Board shows that the average cost of attending private colleges for the current school year rose 4.3 percent from the year before, to $35,636.

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 29, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions, College Costs  | Tags:  college admissions, college costs  
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Yes, there is a lot of sticker shock in the full price for private colleges, but the real question is how much the average family is actually paying. Over the past few years, Harvard has been one of the least expensive private colleges for families with limited incomes. A few years ago Harvard announced that all families earning less than 180,000 per year would not pay more than 10% of their family's annual income for a child's Harvard education. My question is whether Harvard still plans to maintain that program in the current economic climate. I understand that Williams and several other colleges are substantially cutting back on their "no loan" offers. I'd like to see a list of the private colleges that are maintaining the strongest commitment to financial aid, even though their endowments have taken a hit.

Posted by: LauraBrodie | March 29, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Another tough issue to be tackled! Just think you need to add the disgrace of state university costs to colleges' tuition charges.

Many moons ago(60's and 70's) it was actually possible to work your way through college, rent a cheap apt., etc. etc. NOW!?!? I really feel for today's students - there are few jobs to be had, and there is no way they can pay for tuition without taking out horrific loans if their families can't afford to send them.

Higher education has had plenty of time - 2 decades? - to get their technology expenses in order (maybe they could cut back and stop treating tech as a god?) ; and where have their financial wizards been? It shouldn't be acceptable that they rely on endowments or sports' events to get them through.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 29, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Clearly universities are price gouging. There should be executive pay caps on any university that charges over a certain amount for tuition. They should then have professors that lecture about the evils of Big Education and how it is destroying our children and how colleges hoard their endowments. You see spending 10% of your income on health insurance is immoral and Big Insurance just laughs at the high profits they make, but 10% to get your women's studies degree is absolutely necessary.

Posted by: permagrin | March 29, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

when supply of universities does down and demand is up, prices go up. Although prices are up they are having no problem finding people to pay.

Posted by: WhatBubble | March 29, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Bah! This is nothing. Check out law school tuition. It's a complete scam considering their employment stats are fake.

Posted by: FiatBooks | March 29, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Schools charge what they can get. While I fully support government financial aid programs for higher education, there need to be limits on how much is loaned, and accountability for what the schools charge. The more the government loans, the more schools will charge (because they can get it). Perhaps if government loans were limited in amount/year, then schools would charge less to match.

What has happened over the years, is that the student does not benefit from government student loan program, the educational institution does.

Posted by: 123cartoon | March 29, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Private universities are private entities. If you don't like what they are charging, than don't apply. Go to a State School instead.

Posted by: thetan | March 29, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

That $50,000 per year isn't the price of tuition. It's the price joining an elite club that happens to include some education.

If all you want is a great education, that can be had at many public universities for 1/10 the cost of a Harvard education.

Posted by: postisarag | March 29, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not "kids" or "teens", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. Being educated at Harvard isn't needed to receive a good higher education. Since the 2008-2009 academic year, the list of universities and colleges which have a tuition of at least $50,000 has grown dramatically to November. University tuition will keep growing as they keep adding more stuff to charge for but good public universities and colleges are a guarantee at providing quality higher education.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | March 29, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

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