In the 2017-18 school year, the average tuition for a student attending a four-year private university was $34,740. With tuition for some of the most expensive schools rising again, that average has surely gone up.

Student loan debt in America surpassed $1.5 trillion earlier in 2018, and it's a number that continues to grow as tuition rises. As a prospective college student, you need to be acutely aware of your finances, your family's financial situation and just how expensive your dream college is. The 13 schools on this list, for 2018-19, average out to a yearly tuition of $56,734. Now multiply that by four: $226,936.

For students and parents alike, knowing whether a prospective college is one of the most expensive ones in the country is necessary. It not only lets you know what it is costing your kids now, but paints a picture of how much future students will be paying when they start college.

The 13 Most Expensive Colleges in the U.S.

So, what are these colleges that cost so much per year? How do they rank academically, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Here are the 13 most expensive colleges in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.

1. Columbia University

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $59, 430

Yes, Columbia's yearly tuition is very nearly at $60,000 a year before you even include room and board. Like so many other things in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Columbia is a deeply expensive university to attend.

Does it rank as the best school in the country to go along with being the most expensive one? U.S. News & World Report, in their most recent rankings of national universities placed it third - behind Princeton and Harvard, and in a four-way tie for third with MIT, University of Chicago and Yale. It's also ranked No. 34 in undergraduate teaching, and No. 18 in undergrad engineering programs. Currently, the school has 6,162 undergraduate students enrolled and accepts prospective students at about a 6% rate.

2. University of Chicago

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $57,006

The University of Chicago had a sizable jump in tuition, eclipsing $57,000 a year for students starting their attendance in 2018-19. Like Columbia, University of Chicago is an expensive school befitting its neighborhood (Hyde Park).

University of Chicago is tied with Columbia, MIT and Yale - three Ivy League schools - as the third best ranked national university. In undergraduate teaching, it's tied for No. 16 with Boston University and Clemson, and in graduate school rankings the university's Booth School of Business is ranked as the best business school in the country. Then again, if you thought the undergrad tuition was expensive, your head will spin at the full-time business school tuition of $69,200.

3. Vassar College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,960

Vassar is a liberal arts school in upstate New York that has existed since 1861. U.S. News ranked it as the 11th best national liberal arts school, tied for that spot with four other schools (Grinnell College, Haverford College, Smith College and Washington and Lee University).

In addition to this ranking, U.S. News ranked it as the best college in the country for veterans. Vassar currently has 2,353 undergraduate students enrolled and an acceptance rate of about 24%. The liberal arts school is well known for many of its extracurricular activities, including a school quidditch team. It is also known for being one of the Seven Sisters, a group of northeastern colleges that were historically women's colleges (Vassar became co-educational in 1969).

4. Trinity College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,910

Trinity College, the liberal arts school in Hartford, CT, has the fourth most expensive undergraduate education in the country at nearly $57,000 in tuition. It is tied for No. 46 in the U.S. News rankings of national liberal arts schools along with Centre College and Connecticut College.

With an undergraduate population of 2,221, many who attend Trinity College do so for its small, more intimate classes. The acceptance rate is 34%. Trinity is one of the country's oldest liberal arts schools, having been founded in 1823.

5. Harvey Mudd College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,876

Harvey Mudd College of Claremont, Calif., has an exceptionally small undergraduate population - currently just 844 students. Many may attend due to a preference for a much smaller school, but the real selling point for Harvey Mudd is its undergrad engineering program; U.S. News ranks it as tied for first with the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for best undergraduate engineering program.

Harvey Mudd not only is ranked first for overall undergraduate engineering but is also ranked in the top five for specific programs like undergraduate civil, computer and electrical engineering. Overall, it's tied for No. 18 in the list of best liberal arts schools. U.S. News also ranks it No. 8 in the list of most innovative schools in the country.

6. Landmark College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,800

Landmark College is a college designed exclusively for students with learning disabilities, attention disorders, or autism spectrum disorder.

Undergraduate students at Landmark can receive a bachelor's or associate degree. Bachelor's programs include liberal studies, psychology, studio art and computer science. Associate programs include business studies, liberal studies, computer science and life sciences. Online courses and summer courses are also available at Landmark.

7. Franklin and Marshall College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,550

Founded in 1787, Franklin and Marshall College is in Lancaster, Pa. U.S. News has ranked it as the 36th best liberal arts school in the country, tied with Bucknell University and Lafayette College.

Tied with Grinnell College as U.S. News's sixth most innovative school, Franklin and Marshall currently has 2,283 undergraduates enrolled and accepts students at a rate of 34%. About 55% of undergrads there receive need-based financial aid.

8. Amherst College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,426

Amherst, in addition to being one of the most expensive colleges in the country, is also one of the most respected liberal arts institutions. U.S. News ranks it No. 2 in its list of best national liberal arts schools.

Amherst's reputation is known among school guidance counselors. In U.S. News's high school counselor rankings among liberal arts schools, it was ranked No. 4. The only colleges ahead of it? The United States Naval Academy, Military Academy and Air Force Academy.

9. Tufts University

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,382

Whereas some of these schools have a relatively small student population, Tufts University in Massachusetts boasts an undergraduate student population of 5,541. Tufts' undergraduate schools include the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering (which also has graduate programs).

The U.S. News ranked Tufts University No. 27 in its list of national universities, in a three-way tie with University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Wake Forest University. The school is a particularly selective one when deciding who they want to attend, as the acceptance rate is just 15%.

10. University of Southern California

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,225

USC may be more known for its football team around the country, but it's also one of the largest schools in the country, and one of its most highly ranked ones too.

The University of Southern California is ranked No. 22 in the U.S. News rankings, tied with University of California Berkeley. The school is also ranked No. 10 for its overall business programs (and ranked more highly in some specific programs within, like accounting and real estate) and No. 24 in undergraduate engineering programs.

11. Bucknell University

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $56,092

Located in rural Lewisburg, Pa., Bucknell has 3,611 undergraduate students attending the university. What are these students paying $56,000 a year for? In many cases, an education at its renowned College of Engineering. Bucknell is ranked No. 6 by U.S. News in undergraduate engineering programs. In both undergraduate biomedical and chemical engineering, it's ranked first in the country.

Overall, U.S. News ranks Bucknell as the 36th best liberal arts school, tied with Lafayette College and the aforementioned Franklin and Marshall. Overall, the university has over 50 majors for students available at the College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Management.

12. Duke University

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $55,960

It's only fitting that a school whose basketball coach has a yearly salary of nearly $9 million would find their way onto this list. Located in the heart of Durham, N.C., Duke has an undergraduate population of 6,692.

Duke University has more than 10 schools for its undergrad and graduate students. Overall, U.S. News ranks it No. 8 among national universities, tied with the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania. It's ranked No. 18 in undergraduate engineering programs, and No. 4 in biomedical engineering.

13. Kenyon College

2018-19 Tuition & Fees: $55,930

Kenyon College has 1,677 undergraduate students and was founded in 1821. The breakdown of the student population is 56% female and 44% male, according to U.S. News. They rank Kenyon No. 30 on the list of national liberal arts colleges, and No. 21 in undergraduate teaching.

In addition to its undergraduate program with a yearly tuition of $55,930, Kenyon also offers hundreds of study abroad opportunities.

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