Connecticut colleges among the priciest

Washington — If you are price shopping for a college education, you may want to avoid certain schools in Connecticut, the Obama administration says.

In the 2010-2011 academic year, Connecticut College in New London was most expensive college in the country and Quinnipiac University in Hamden one of the highest-cost schools after grants and scholarships were taken into account, says a U.S. Department of Education study.

According to the College Affordability and Transparency report, Connecticut College’s tuition was $43,990, more than twice the average tuition of $21,949 for a four-year private college.

Connecticut College spokeswoman Deborah MacDonnell said her school’s tuition reflects that the college is “one of a small number of highly selective, residential liberal arts colleges that offer a very valuable and personalized education.”

Three New York schools, Sarah Lawrence, Columbia and Vassar, followed as the nation’s priciest, followed by George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Trinity College in Hartford, whose tuition was $42,420, ranked sixth, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, which charged its students $42,084, ranked No. 11. The U.S. Department of Education rated 1,361 private schools.

MacDonnell said Connecticut College has “a strong commitment to need-based financial aid,” that helps offset the high cost of the school’s tuition

She also said other costs of attending the school are lower at Connecticut College than other schools.

“If you look at total cost, which includes tuition, fees, room and board, we were much lower on the list,” she said.

When room and board and other expenses were considered, as well as grants and scholarships, the average cost of attending Connecticut College was $23,464.

That was still higher than the national average of $18,770, but less than attending Quinnipiac. The cost of that school was $31,136 for the 2010-2011 school year.

“The university’s financial aid department treats each family individually,” said Quinnipiac spokeswoman Lynn Bushnell. “An average may not be the best way to gauge what an individual family might pay.”

Bushnell also said that the school’s financial aid budget for the coming school year was increased by $8 million to $81.6 million “to help offset the total cost of attendance.”

Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, with costs of $21,993, was also in the top 5 percent of the nation’s highest-cost private schools.

In contrast, Yale University’s costs, $17,634, were lower than the national average for a four-year private college.

The Obama administration has made college affordability a policy — and political — priority.

At a news conference Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged families to “please make sure that you and your student are comparison shopping.”

Private colleges are not the only schools fast becoming out of reach to many students.

The college affordability report said the average tuition for a four-year, public university climbed 15 percent between 2008 and 2010.

Duncan said at this rate, “College will become increasingly unaffordable for the middle class.”

With an annual in-state tuition of $10,416, the University of Connecticut ranked 76 out of 649 four-year public universities studied. The average tuition for public institutions in 2010-2011 was $6,669.

The tuitions at Eastern Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University and Western Connecticut State University all exceeded that average, putting the schools in the top 25 percent.

The main branch of Pennsylvania State University, in State College, had the highest in-state tuition for a four-year public university, at $15,250.

Connecticut’s schools have not become more affordable since the 2010-2011 school year. All had tuition increases in this academic year and many plan increases in the fall.