Tab for Georgetown, GW, Catholic and AU tops $50,000 annually

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Georgetown University is the most expensive college or university to attend in the Washington area, according to a new online tool developed by the Department of Education to help estimate the true costs of the undergraduate experience.

The tool, at the Education Department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, not only generates and compares tuition rates around the country, but it can calculate annual tuition, fees and estimated expenses for undergraduate colleges for a more complete picture of overall costs.

For example, while tuition at Georgetown was $40,203, the site calculates the overall cost for students attending the university this year at $56,485.

But Georgetown isn’t the only D.C. university where prospective students can expect to pay more than $50,000 annually. Three other D.C. universities also exceed the figure after books, supplies and room and board are added to the cost of classes.

The website pegs the cost of attending George Washington University this year at $55,625, American University at $52,065 and Catholic University at $50,072.

The city's public university, the University of the District of Columbia, carries a total price tag of $25,366 for in-city residents, according to the website.

Alan Etter, a UDC spokesman, said the District “is one of the most expensive places in the country not only to live, but to go to school.”

“Washington, D.C., has some great universities and some very expensive universities. If you have the resources to attend those, that’s great,” he said. “UDC offers a high-quality education that’s affordable.”

The tuition climbs can bring sticker shock for students and their families, said National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators spokesman Haley Chitty, but “schools, like anyone else, are also under economic pressure now. A lot of schools have seen their endowments affected, their investments affected.”

The University of Maryland and the University of Virginia come in roughly the same for in-state students, with Maryland residents attending College Park paying $22,263 this year while their counterparts in Charlottesville hand over $22,535 this year.

The website also contains extensive information on student body demographics, degree programs, graduation rates and the availability of financial aid. It features an average net price, determined by subtracting out the average amount of government aid and grant funding from the total cost of attendance.

The average net price at Georgetown, for example, dropped by half from $53,425 to $26,631 in the 2008-09 academic year, the last year for which the statistic was available.

While community colleges are a cheaper higher-education alternative, some area schools saw bumps in what they charge every year.

Northern Virginia Community College saw a double-digit increase to its overall cost, which this year is $18,756 for county residents.

Costs at Prince George’s Community College went up an average of 3.2 percent to $14,049 for county residents.

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