The Most (And Least) Expensive Top B-Schools

There’s just no way around it. College is expensive. Despite reports that some colleges have dropped costs over the past decade, and the fact that many students don’t pay the actual sticker price thanks to scholarships and grants, higher education is still pricey. And according to data submitted to Poets&Quants for Undergrads, the cost is increasing at most schools.

Each year when we rank the country’s best undergraduate business schools, we ask for numerous data points from the schools. One of these is the total estimated cost of attending the school for the next four years. For the few schools that did not submit that data point, we estimated the total cost for the 2018-2019 academic year and multiplied it by four. For each school, the total cost figure includes all tuition and fees as well as housing and other living expenses over four years, assuming, as it must, that students live and eat on campus all four years. Among the 88 schools we ranked in 2018, the most expensive was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management in Troy, New York. Rensselaer ranked 66th in this year’s ranking but carried an estimated price tag of $287,988 over the next four years.

Just two other schools had total estimated costs greater than $280,000. New York University’s Stern School of Business estimates its total four-year cost at $284,286, while Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business reported a total cost of $280,292. Top-ranked Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania had the next highest total cost, at $276,592; and third-place Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School rounded out the top five with a total cost of $275,600. Of the 88 ranked schools, it costs at least a quarter-million dollars to attend 28 of them.

The difference between RPI Lally and the least expensive school — Brigham Young University’s Marriott School — is $212,644.

According to the College Board, the national average total four-year cost at a private college is $203,600. At public universities, the cost plunges by more than half to $101,160 for in-state students, and to $163,760 for out-of-state students. Including private and both in- and out-of-state total costs across all 88 schools ranked in this year’s P&Q best undergraduate business schools ranking, the overall average is $181,672.

To be sure, paying a high cost isn’t necessary to receive a solid business education. All 88 ranked schools are in the top 10% of all accredited business schools nationwide. But even within the top 88, some of the highest-ranked public universities offer elite business education for in-state students at half the cost as some private schools on the list. One example is the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The school recently announced it would be raising the cost of tuition by $2,000 a year for business majors. Considering Kenan-Flagler is a two-year program, the cost hike isn’t as impactful as it would be for a four-year program. Kenan-Flagler still remains one of the least expensive schools for in-state students, at a four-year total cost of $101,252.

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, also a top-15 school like Kenan-Flagler, has a total four-year in-state cost of $103,082. Five other top-15 schools currently provide a business education for in-state students at less than $150,000: 11th-placed University of Texas-Austin ($112,192), fourth-placed University of Michigan ($123,866), second-placed University of Virginia ($133,598), 12th-placed College of William & Mary ($135,568), and the University of California-Berkeley ($141,032).

For least-expensive ranked schools, Brigham Young University tops the list. Biz majors at BYU can still earn a degree for just $75,344. The next least-expensive school is James Madison University, where in-state students pay a total four-year cost of $88,432. Seven of the 88 ranked schools still offer a degree for a total four-year cost of less than $100,000.

(See the next page for total cost at all 88 schools including in-state and out-of-state rates at public universities.)

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