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Yearly college costs near $100k at Vanderbilt, other schools

Some blame administrative bloat, nearly 1 administrator for every 2 students

The cost of a college education is nearly $100,000 per year at Vanderbilt University and several other institutions, with some blaming administrative bloat as a reason.

The $98,426 price tag for the 2024-2025 academic year includes tuition, room, board, personal expenses, and a laptop, according to a report at the New York Times this week. The estimate total for the current year is $89,590, not including additional fees for certain students.

About 35 percent of undergraduate students at the Tennessee university pay the full cost, while the rest receive financial aid – which is “extraordinarily generous” at Vanderbilt, the report states.

Brett Sweet, vice chancellor for finance, told the newspaper in an emailed statement the university spends more per undergraduate than it charges, about $119,000.

“The gap between the price and cost of attendance is funded by our endowment and the generous philanthropy of donors and alumni,” Sweet said.

However, some blame administrative bloat for the rising cost of college, according to the report. A recent College Fix analysis found Vanderbilt employs more than one full-time administrator for every two students.

Last year, it also launched a $17 million faculty DEI initiative to advance diversity, The Fix reported at the time.

In 2023, 52 percent of Vanderbilt’s “operating expenses went to faculty, staff and student salaries and wages, plus fringe benefits,” according to the Times.

Its report continues:

According to the College Board, the average 2023-24 list price for tuition, fees, housing and food was $56,190 at private, nonprofit four-year schools. At four-year public colleges, in-state students saw an average $24,030 sticker price.

That’s not what many people pay, though, not even close. As of the 2019-20 school year, according to federal data that the College Board used in a 2023 report, 39 percent of in-state students attending two-year colleges full time received enough grant aid to cover all of their tuition and fees (though not their living expenses, which can make getting through school enormously difficult). At four-year public schools, 31 percent paid nothing for tuition and fees while 18 percent of students at private colleges and universities qualified for the same deal.

Total college costs at other prominent institutions are similar.

Next year, Dartmouth College estimates the total cost of attendance, including “indirect costs” such as books and laundry, will be $91,312.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the total costs at the University of Chicago were $89,040. At Oberlin College in Ohio, they were $83,588, and $85,410 at Trinity College in Connecticut. Columbia University charged $89,587.

MORE: Administrative bloat is far worse at small liberal arts schools: study

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.