25 Colleges With the Highest Hidden Price Tags

Last Updated Jul 6, 2011 10:34 AM EDT

The teenage son of an old friend of mine is an artist, who is eager to attend an art school.Artist paint brushes
When my friend Betsy asked me for advice a few months ago, I told her that Alex should stay away from art schools and apply to regular colleges and universities that offer art degrees instead.

Why? Many art schools, as well as schools of music, are extremely expensive, but their financial aid packages are often laughable. Betsy's family is barely middle class and would go into horrific debt if Alex attended many of these schools.

The High Price of Art and Music Schools

The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Education clearly backs up my warning about these specialty institutions. Art and music schools, according to new federal statistics, represent seven of the 10 private institutions that have the most expensive net tuition prices in the country.

A school's net price, what I like to call the hidden price, represents what families pay after typical scholarships and grants are subtracted from the sticker price. It's the net price -- not the published price -- that matters.

25 Schools With the Highest Net Tuition Prices

  1. Art Center College of Design $39,672
  2. The New School $39,004
  3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago $38,965
  4. The Boston Conservatory $37,798
  5. California Institute of the Arts $36,997
  6. Manhattan School of Music $36,208
  7. Rhode Island School of Design $35,991
  8. Pratt Institute $35,991
  9. Santa Clara University $35,245
  10. Northwestern Health Sciences University $35,062
  11. St. Joseph's University $34,548
  12. Simmons College $34,498
  13. Drew University $34,379
  14. Beacon College $34,068
  15. New York University $34,011
  16. Ringling College of Art and Design $33,946
  17. The New England Conservatory of Music $33,910
  18. School of the Museum of Fine Arts- Boston $33,319
  19. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology $33,304
  20. Culinary Institute of America $33,301
  21. Coleman University $33,247
  22. Berklee College of Music $33,166
  23. Maryland Institute College of Art $32,712
  24. Northeastern University $32,703
  25. Worcester Polytechnic Institute $32,337

Why Are Art Schools So Expensive?

I contacted the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, to ask why it had the highest net price among all private, nonprofit schools. The communications director sent me a press release written in response to the federal numbers. The release noted that the school's student-faculty ratio is 9 to 1, which is very low, and that the college offers its students cutting-edge facilities.

The art school's also sent me a statement from the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. The association's executive director offered these reasons for the high price of art schools: These schools offer low student-faculty ratios, students typically meet for twice the hours of general-ed courses, expensive special equipment is needed and the schools are located in higher cost cities.

Sorry, but those reasons sound more like excuses to me. I'm wondering if these schools can charge exorbitant prices because their competition is.

Bottom Line:

Art and music schools could be a great choice for rich students, who can afford the steep price tags, but if you need lots of financial aid, I'd stay away.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.

Read More on CBS MoneyWatch:

The Nation's Most Expensive Colleges and Universities
Why America's Most Expensive Colleges Could Hurt Your Wallet
Where Professors Send Their Children to College
25 Private Colleges With the Best Graduation Rates
Here's the Nation's Easiest College Major
Art school image by john_a_ward. CC 2.0.

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