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Putting together the Independent College 500 Index

The Independent College 500 Index (IC 500), your guide to yearly costs at independent colleges across the country, measures the change in cost at schools meeting the following criteria:

  • Control: Independent (private)
  • Type: Four-year college
  • Accreditation: Regional (including "candidate" status)
  • Number of students living in college housing: 15 percent or more of full-time undergraduates

The IC 500 was first published following the 1986-87 school year. Drawing on data culled from the 1986-87 edition of College Board Annual Survey of Colleges, total direct charges (TDC) for the academic year were computed by adding the costs of tuition and fees (T&F) to room and board (R&B), and then multiplying that number by enrollment (E), or the total number of full-time undergraduates. This calculation can be envisioned as:

TDC = [(T&F + R&B) * E]

The 500 institutions with the highest TDC formed the original sample for the IC 500. Every three to five years, the current sample is evaluated for possible replacements. A replacement process was conducted in 2017-18 consisting of 20 institutions.

The current distribution of the IC 500 institutions by College Board region is as follows:

College Board Region Number of Institutions
Middle States 138
Midwest 129
South 82
New England 68
West 57
Southwest 26

The states with the most IC 500 institutions are New York and Pennsylvania, each with 57 schools.