It took a little more than a decade for the University of Chicago to reinvent itself, going from a well-regarded but largely regional school to an extremely selective university with national prestige. In 2006, the Hyde Park university admitted more than a third of its freshman applicants. That rate has plummeted so drastically in the years since—to a record-low 5.9 percent in the most recent application cycle—that the school is now more selective than many members of the Ivy League.
As admission rates have dropped, the cost of attendance has increased—a correlation seen at many highly selective schools. By 2025, the University of Chicago’s sticker price is predicted to pass the $100,000 mark, which would make it the first U.S. college where attendance costs six figures, according to a new analysis by The Hechinger Report, an education-news outlet. The analysis suggests at least a handful of other U.S. colleges will follow suit soon after Chicago hits that milestone, including California’s Harvey Mudd College, New York City’s Columbia University, and Texas’s Southern Methodist University.
And after that, given the way American higher education has been going, it likely won’t be long before six-figure prices are common among selective colleges and universities. “The [colleges] that are expensive are the ones that students want to apply to,” explains the Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen, who studies higher-education finance. “Being expensive is seen as being good—if one [elite] college is 20 percent cheaper than another [elite] college, students are going to wonder what’s wrong with it.”