Penn state

Penn State tops the list for public in-state colleges.

No college wants to top these rankings. Today the Education Department unveils a website on which it is publishing for the first time lists identifying the nation’s most expensive colleges.


The lists, which also include the least expensive colleges, were created to help students and families make informed decisions — and to hold colleges accountable for rising tuition.

“We hope this information will encourage schools to continue in their efforts to make the costs of college more transparent,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.

The lists, which do not include current tuition charges, available at, are based on data colleges report annually to the federal government. The rankings are broken down into sections for private, public, for-profit and community colleges.

The Education Department gave colleges a peek at the data this week, but most haven’t had a chance to digest it, said Terry Hartle, chief lobbyist for the American Council on Education. He said it will be of limited use to families, in part because the methodology is “fairly complex.” But the rankings have raised concerns among college officials. “Any time somebody does this sort of a prioritizing … is a big deal, particularly if it has the weight of the Department of Education behind it,” said Roland King, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “There are so many chances for misinterpretation.”

Under federal law, colleges with the fastest-rising published tuitions and net prices — about 530 — will now have to explain to Education Department officials why their costs went up and what steps they’ll take to reduce them.

Among reactions from those schools:

•California State University system spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said fast-increasing tuitions posted by several campuses “are a direct reflection of the budget situation in California.”

•Paul Panesar, president of Coleman University in San Diego, said the data cast his institution in an “undeservedly bad light.”

•John Bassett, president of Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash., said he is undisturbed: “If anything our tuition is still too low.”

Via USA Today