Is Tuition More Expensive in America or in England?

20:17 20 March in Research, Thoughts

Most people believe that while tuition for university might be expensive in England, it is far more expensive in the US. But is that really true? It is starting to become more and more apparent that these comparisons are likely based not on the average tuition in each country, but by comparing the average tuition in England to some of America’s most expensive universities. When you look at what Harvard and Yale are asking per year (nearly $60,000 and $50,000 respectively), it is easy to assume that tuition across the board in the US is going to be much higher than in England. But what do we see if we start to actually compare comparable universities and their tuitions?


UCLA isn’t the most expensive university in the states, but it is definitely more expensive than, for example, the typical state college. The University of California, Los Angeles is in the top twenty universities in the country, and charges just north of $13,000 (£9,350) a year. UCLAN, which is the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, charges £9,000, which is only £350 less than UCLA. When the dollar was a little bit weaker earlier this year, it was actually cheaper to attend UCLA than it was to attend UCLAN. Comparisons like these prove that while there are some very expensive universities in the United States, even some of the biggest and most well-regarded universities in the country have costs comparable to universities in England.

But what about the averages?

In fact, the average cost of tuition in the US is $9,410 or £6,610. The average cost in England? £6,000 per year. So while there are universities in the US that charge fees that many will find outrageous (including the students that actually have to pay that tuition), the average cost of tuition to attend a university in either place is about the same. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about education in the United States: that it is more expensive to attend university here than in any other country. This election cycle, the cost of getting an education has become a major point of contention, with some candidates promising to do away with college tuition and others promising to find other ways to eliminate student debt. The real issue here is one of perception. In order to attend a university that is considered prestigious, most students have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. This is a huge financial burden that can make it impossible for even middle class students to attend a university on the top twenty list. But the problem exists in England, too. Attending their most prestigious universities is going to be more expensive than attending a smaller, less popular university.

Other Costs

Anyone who has been to university knows that tuition is only one cost. There are lots of costs that aren’t always included in tuition prices. In the United States, it is much more common for schools to roll room and board into the cost of tuition, while in England, tuition prices are usually just for attending the school, while accommodations are totally separate. Both countries, however, report that rarely do any of their students actually pay the full price of admission, with the vast majority of students being awarded scholarships, loans, and fellowships to defray the cost.

Supply and Demand

If you’ve been on social media lately, you have probably seen a millennial post something about the outrageous cost of getting an education and a baby boomer or gen Xer replying that they worked for their schooling and that the rising generation should be expected to do so as well. One of my baby boomer-aged uncles even posted that the rising costs of tuition are due to supply and demand, and that large, Ivy League universities are more expensive because more people want to attend those universities.

And while that is definitely a factor, it is hard to dispute that it is much more expensive to get a bachelor’s degree today than it was thirty years ago. But this would also play into why university in America is considered to be more expensive than university in England. England has just over fifty-three million people. The United States, on the other hand, has over 300 million people. That means more college-aged people, trying to get into school.

In general, however, the costs are largely the same, and they can be deferred in the same way. With loans, by taking classes online, choosing a cheaper university or one closer to home, so you can avoid paying room and board, on top of the already steep tuition prices.