A common criticism many colleges have about the way Americans talks about college pricing is that so much of the media discussion is about sticker price. Tuition at George Washington University is $42,860 a year! Tuition at Sarah Lawrence is $59,170 a year. With numbers like that, it looks like parents and students are essentially buying a new Jaguar ever year.

But, universities point out, that number doesn’t actually reflect what every student has to pay. Many students pay far less.It’s the net price that really matters.

Well here’s what’s really going on. The New York Times has done the math and put together a ranking of American colleges based on what students really pay, the net price.

Here are the 20 most expensive (private) colleges in America:


Here are the 20 cheapest (public) ones:


The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is America’s most expensive college.

These are probably the more important schools to look at as far as college pricing goes. The sticker price is more about symbolism.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer