College tuition is stunningly high - and curiously about the same for the best schools

Not that we're suggesting the university presidents are in cahoots or anything, but it is striking how similar it costs to attend the top-ranked institutions, as compiled by U.S. News. For private schools, expect to pay between $40,000 and $42,000 a year for tuition and fees, plus another $12,000 or so for room and board. Guess there's an economic imperative to stay within a narrow range of each other. Columbia is about the only outlier, at $45,290, while Rice is a relative bargain at $35,551 (Princeton and Caltech are also well under 40 grand). Public schools, despite all the recent budget cuts, remain the best deals - UCLA, which ranked 25th on this year's list, costs in-state students $11,604 ($34,482 for out of state). Room and board is on the high side, at $13,979. USC, which was 23rd, costs $42,818, with room and board at $12,078. Here's how it shakes out:

Tuition and fees:
$39,849 (2011-12)

Tuition and fees:
$37,000 (2011-12)

Tuition and fees:
$40,500 (2011-12)

Tuition and fees:
$45,290 (2011-12)

5)California Institute of Technology
Tuition and fees:
$37,704 (2011-12)

5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tuition and fees:
$40,732 (2011-12)

5)Stanford University
Tuition and fees:
$40,569 (2011-12)

5)University of Chicago
Tuition and fees:
$42,783 (2011-12)

5)University of Pennsylvania
Tuition and fees:
$42,098 (2011-12)

10)Duke University
Tuition and fees:
$41,958 (2011-12)

11)Dartmouth College
Tuition and fees:
$42,996 (2011-12)

12)Northwestern University
Tuition and fees:
$41,983 (2011-12)

13)Johns Hopkins University
Tuition and fees:
$42,280 (2011-12)

14)Washington University in St. Louis
Tuition and fees:
$41,992 (2011-12)

15)Brown University
Tuition and fees:
$42,230 (2011-12)

15)Cornell University
Tuition and fees:
$41,541 (2011-12)

17)Rice University
Tuition and fees:
$35,551 (2011-12)

17)Vanderbilt University
Tuition and fees:
$41,332 (2011-12)

19)University of Notre Dame
Tuition and fees:
$41,417 (2011-12)

20)Emory University
Tuition and fees:
$41,164 (2011-12)

21)University of California--Berkeley
In-state tuition and fees:
$11,767 (2011-12)
Out-of-state tuition and fees:
$34,645 (2011-12)

22)Georgetown University
Tuition and fees:
$41,393 (2011-12)

23)Carnegie Mellon University
Tuition and fees:
$43,396 (2011-12)

23) University of Southern California
Tuition and fees:
$42,818 (2011-12)

25)University of California--Los Angeles
In-state tuition and fees:
$11,604 (2011-12)
Out-of-state tuition and fees:
$34,482 (2011-12)

25)University of Virginia
In-state tuition and fees:
$11,576 (2011-12)
Out-of-state tuition and fees:
$36,570 (2011-12)

25)Wake Forest University
Tuition and fees:
$41,576 (2011-12)

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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