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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 the College Board's 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. There were 1,126 accredited, private, four-year colleges covered by the Annual Survey of Colleges that met the IC 500 inclusion criteria in our database. The total weighted costs were derived for each of these institutions. We removed the 20 institutions in the IC 500 with the lowest total weighted costs and replaced them with 20 institutions with higher total weighted costs.

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

College Board Region Number of Institutions
Middle States 140
Midwest 127
South 82
New England 69
West 56
Southwest 26

The states with the most IC 500 institutions are New York, with 58 schools, and Pennsylvania, with 57 schools.