2024 Predictions: How much will it cost to open a private university in the US?

August 29, 2023
2024 Predictions: How much will it cost to open a private university in the US?
We provide the licensing and accreditation needed to establish a new university and offer comprehensive guidance throughout the process.

This involves helping our clients understand all the legal and financial requirements around university establishment, as well as providing marketing and branding advice to ensure their university or college stands out from other educational institutions.

Our competitors can only offer a limited service, either licensing or accreditation, as most don't have the skills or team required to provide a turnkey service. This is why EEC stands out from the crowd – we can offer our clients everything they need to get their university off the ground easily and efficiently.
We aim to provide a complete service that will give our clients every chance of success when setting up their university. With EEC, you get a complete package of expertise and support for your university startup project.

 At EEC we're looking at building a long-term relationship with our clients, where launching a university is only the first step.

 We are confident that no other company can match our team of experts and their specialized knowledge.

Opening a university is the dream of many people who want to be teachers or business owners with big ideas. The idea of shaping the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators is not only exciting but also very fulfilling. Imagine being in charge of an organization that trains the people who will one day solve the most important problems in the world. But the path to making this dream come true is filled with questions like "How to open a university?" and "Can I open my own university?" One of the most difficult parts of this dream is the money. As 2024 gets closer, the big question that hangs over our hopes is, "Can I open my own private university in the US?" And if I can, “How much does it cost to open a university?"

Imagine this: It's a cool fall morning in 2024, and the sun is drawing golden lines on the walls of the buildings at your university. Students walk through the gates, full of joy and nerves, ready to start a journey of self-discovery and intellectual growth. You stand there, taking it all in, and then it hits you: you did it. You opened your own university. But it wasn't a straight line from where we started to where we are now. It was a long, winding road full of cash problems, problems with paperwork, and sleepless nights spent carefully planning every step.

But this moment of victory doesn't come for free. Behind this dream come true is a carefully woven tapestry of investments, financial planning, and strategic choices. Not only does it cost money to make this dream come true, but it also takes time, work, and a lot of careful planning. Every step of creating a university costs a lot of money, like finding a campus location, hiring teachers, investing in technology, and marketing your institution. So, how much will it really cost to make this dream come true? This is the question that every single one of my clients asks me when we first start this conversation. Let's get down to the facts and figure out how much it will cost to open a private university in the US in 2024 and how to open a university with the lowest costs.

I must warn you that this is a long article, so if you want to skip to the actual numbers, you can scroll down to the conclusion section of this article.

Campus Location

The setting of your university is of the utmost importance. It will be extremely important in luring both students and teachers to the institution. On the other hand, securing a decent location comes with a heavy price tag, particularly in light of the escalating property prices in the United States. When thinking about the campus as a whole, classrooms are only one aspect to consider. You will also need to think about the places that will be needed for the administration, offices for academics and staff, storage for technological hardware, workshops, laboratories, student common areas, and bathrooms. 

The amount of money required to sign a lease for a campus varies greatly from one state to the next. For instance, the cost of acquiring a location in a state like California or New York, both of which have very high property prices, would most certainly be far more than the cost of securing a place in a state like Arizona, Florida, or Utah. For instance, renting a house in the middle of San Francisco or New York City could cost upwards of $20,000 per month, yet renting a property of a comparable nature in Phoenix, Arizona, or Salt Lake City, Utah, might only set you back around $5,000–$10,000 per month. 

If you are offering all your programs online with no classroom teaching at all, you can lease an office in a shared office facility for as little as $500–$1000 a month, which is a huge saving for you in the beginning.

However, the price is not the only consideration here. When choosing a location, it is necessary to strike a balance between a number of different considerations, such as the level of demand for higher education in the state, the ease with which state authorities would give their approval, and the availability of qualified faculty and staff. For instance, establishing a university in a state with lower property values may result in lower startup costs, but this may also result in decreased demand for your school, making it more difficult to recruit both students and professors. On the other side, states that have higher property prices might have a greater demand for education as well as a larger pool of qualified teachers; but, the cost of operation would be significantly higher in these states.

The way that students will receive their education at your school, as well as the kinds of academic programs that will be available to them, are both major factors that affect the total cost of establishing a campus. If all of your classes are delivered digitally, you won't require as much physical space on campus. You will, however, want additional room in the event that you intend to provide in-person sessions or even a hybrid model, which is a combination of online and in-person instruction. In addition, the kinds of educational programs that you provide will have a significant impact on the kinds of facilities that you require. For instance, if you plan to provide programs such as nursing that contain a practical component, you will need labs that adhere to extremely precise regulations. This will result in a large increase in the total cost of the program.

In addition, the process through which a university seeks and obtains permission to operate from the state in which it is located might vary greatly from one state to another. In certain states, the procedure for obtaining approval is less complicated and takes less time, whereas in others, it is more convoluted and takes more time. This is a crucial point to take into account because the longer it takes to acquire approval, the more money you will have to spend on overhead charges even before you can begin accepting new students.

Therefore, selecting a location for your campus is a decision that involves balancing a number of different factors, including the expenses, the demand, the convenience of the approval process, and the requirements of the educational programs that you offer. It is not enough to just choose the least expensive alternative; rather, you need to identify the alternative that offers the greatest return on investment while also assuring the long-term viability of your organization. Before making this choice, you need to have a comprehensive awareness of the requirements of your organization, the requirements of your students, and the long-term objectives of your university.


A college or university that does not have excellent teaching staff is like a ship that does not have a compass; it will never arrive at its intended destination. Before you can even begin to think about accepting more students, you need to ensure that your educational institution has a solid faculty in place. This is a crucial first step before you can even begin to consider expanding your student body. This includes adjunct professors in addition to those who teach full-time. An adjunct faculty member may charge between $2,000 and $10,000 per course, while a full-time faculty member's annual income begins at $60,000 and can go up to $200,000, depending on their credentials and where they are located. Remember that paying the wages of the teachers will be one of your major expenses, especially taking into consideration the fact that money won't start rolling in until much later.

There are a variety of factors that could influence the price of faculty. The degree of education you will be offering to your students will initially determine the qualifications required of your faculty. The minimum educational requirement for faculty members in undergraduate programs is a master's degree, but the minimum educational requirement for faculty members in graduate programs is a doctoral degree. Pay increases tend to follow a faculty member's level of education and experience in the field.

Second, the fees that you pay to the faculty will vary depending on the method of instruction that you choose. It is possible that your expenditures for professors will be reduced if you teach online rather than if they have to commute to your school to teach there. However, it is essential to keep in mind that educating students online necessitates a distinct skill set, and it is possible that your faculty will require additional training as a result, which could result in higher expenses.

Third, the costs of the faculty will vary depending on the kind of programs that you provide. For instance, the cost of hiring instructors for nursing programs, which require specialized qualifications in addition to hands-on expertise, is typically higher than the cost of hiring instructors for more theoretical programs, such as language or management. Programs that call for specialized technology or facilities will also call for faculty members who have specialized training. This can result in increased expenses.

It is essential to take all of these aspects into account when developing a budget for the costs of faculty and to make sure that you are selecting faculty members who have the proper qualifications and expertise for your programs. Keep in mind that the quality of the education that your university will offer is directly correlated to the quality of the teachers that it employs.

Administrative Staff

In addition to faculty, a strong administrative staff is necessary for the efficient operation of the university. Among the key administrative positions are:

  • The Chief Academic Officer is responsible for supervising the university's academic affairs, including curriculum development, faculty hiring, and academic planning.
  • Director of Admissions: Oversees the admissions procedure, including marketing, recruitment, application processing, and student selection.
  • Director of Student Services: Oversees services that promote student achievement, such as counseling, career services, and extracurricular activities.
  • Registrar: Manages student records, including enrollment, grades, and transcripts, and assures academic policy compliance.
  • The librarian oversees the university library, including collection development, cataloging, and student and faculty research assistance.
  • Manages human resources functions, including recruiting, training, payroll, and benefits administration.
  • Accountant: Manages the university's financial affairs, such as budgeting, financial reporting, and auditing.

These positions are essential to the university's success because they ensure that the institution operates efficiently, complies with applicable regulations, and offers a supportive environment for students and faculty. Initially, it may be more cost-effective to engage part-time employees for these positions and then convert them to full-time employees as your institution expands. Depending on their skills, experience, location, and the responsibilities they will be managing, the hourly rate for administrative staff can range from $40 to $250. To ensure success from the minute you open your university, you must allocate a sufficient budget for these positions and hire experienced and qualified candidates.

Infrastructure and Technology

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, technical expenses are no longer just a part of your budget; they are a substantial and indispensable component. Picture this: you are the captain of a ship, and your equipment and technology are your map and compass. Without them, you’re sailing blind!

The hardware and software necessary for the delivery of your courses support your educational infrastructure. Considering that the majority of learning modules are now digital, a “Learning Management System (LMS)” is as indispensable as oxygen. It is the digital classroom that stores all student information, including projects, exams, grades, and feedback.

Now imagine you’re building a house. You could get an architect to design a custom one for you, which is exciting but also quite expensive. Developing a custom LMS is similar; it can cost between $25,000 and $100,000, and that’s excluding the server costs! On the other hand, you could move into a ready-made house and personalize it as you go. Similarly, you can use a ready-made LMS solution and pay per student, which averages around $5 per student per month. It’s like a subscription box for education!

But what if you’re a DIY enthusiast? Well, if you have the technical expertise, you can roll up your sleeves and install Moodle or Canvas on your own server. It’s a bit like planting your own garden; it requires effort and maintenance, but it can be a cost-effective option in the long run and incredibly satisfying.

The world of equipment and technology is vast and varied. Whether you choose to develop a custom LMS, use a ready-made solution, or install an open-source platform on your own server, it is crucial to ensure that your choice aligns with your budget, your technical expertise, and the long-term goals of your startup university. Remember, your equipment and technology are the tools that will enable you to deliver high-quality education to your students, so choose wisely!

Library Resources

It is impossible to overestimate the significance of having access to quality library resources in a learning environment. It is the source from which your students will draw their knowledge, and it is also a critical component in the accreditation process for your university. Students need to have access to a wide variety of reading and research materials in order to satisfy the requirements of the accrediting bodies. This access can come in the form of a physical library or an online library.

Buying books, subscribing to online journals, and investing in other forms of instructional content such as multimedia content and specialist databases should all be included in the budget you set forth for your library's resources. To give one illustration, the annual cost of a subscription to an online journal such as JSTOR can be close to $50,000 for a small to medium-sized organization. In addition, the initial cost of stocking a physical library might run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of your school and the scope of your educational offerings.

You also have the option of obtaining a subscription for your students through one of the most cost-effective library service and content providers, such as LIRN, which charges you based on your usage and allows you to scale up or down as your organization expands. I always advise newly founded organizations to choose one of these alternatives so that they can maintain a limited budget until they reach financial stability. This can cost as little as $2000 a year for 100 students and all your faculty.

Keep in mind that this is not a one-time expense; you will need to continually update your library materials in order to guarantee that your students have access to the most up-to-date and relevant knowledge.

Marketing and Advertising

It is essential to spread the word about your new university in order to attract students and faculty. Your digital marketing and promotion strategy should include the creation of a professional website, the design of promotional materials such as brochures and banners, advertising in relevant media, and public relations initiatives aimed at generating positive publicity for your institution.

Creating a professional website, for instance, can cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on its complexity and required features. In addition, advertising costs can vary significantly, ranging from $1,000 per month for online advertising to $10,000 per month for a comprehensive advertising campaign encompassing print, online, and broadcast media.

Public relations efforts, such as press releases, media interviews, and community engagement events, are also crucial for constructing a positive image for your institution. Depending on the quality of service required, employing a PR firm can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 per month.

Remember that the purpose of your marketing and promotion efforts is to establish a strong and positive brand for your university in addition to attracting students.

Accreditation Consultant

Gaining accreditation for your startup university is a critical step in ensuring its success and recognition. The accreditation process involves meeting specific standards and requirements set by recognized accrediting bodies. This process can be complex, time-consuming, and, let's face it, quite daunting.

This is where an accreditation consultant comes in. They are the navigators who will guide you through the labyrinth of the accreditation process, ensuring that you meet all the necessary requirements and helping you navigate the complexities involved.

Hiring an accreditation consultant is a crucial investment in the success of your university. The cost can vary, but it typically ranges from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the complexity of the accreditation process and the level of assistance required.


This article offers a comprehensive overview of the expenditures involved in starting and running a university.

  • Lease a campus: California and New York charge far more for a place than Arizona, Florida, or Utah. Renting a comparable house in San Francisco or New York City could cost up to $20,000 per month, whereas in Phoenix or Salt Lake City, it could cost $5,000–$10,000. Online programs can rent shared office space for $500–$1000 a month.
  • Faculty: Adjunct faculty cost $2,000–$10,000 per course, whereas full-time faculty earn $60,000–$200,000 per year, depending on credentials and location.
  • Administrative Staff: Skills, experience, location, and responsibilities determine administrative staff hourly prices of $40 to $250.
  • A custom Learning Management System (LMS) costs $25,000 to $100,000, excluding server costs. Alternatively, a ready-made LMS costs $5 per student per month.
  • Library Resources: A tiny to medium-sized company can spend about $50,000 for a JSTOR subscription. Physical library stocking might cost $50,000–100,000. LIRN subscriptions cost $2,000 per year for 100 students and faculty.
  • Marketing and Advertising: A quality website costs $5,000–$20,000. A comprehensive campaign can cost $10,000 per month, while online advertising costs $1,000 per month. Monthly PR fees range from $5,000 to $20,000.
  • Accreditation consultant: Depending on the complexity of the accreditation procedure and the level of help needed, accreditation consultants cost $10,000 to $50,000.

In conclusion, property leasing, academic and administrative staff recruiting, LMS construction or subscription, library resources, marketing and advertising, and accreditation consultation require a significant financial commitment to start your own university. These expenses vary depending on location, institution size, service quality, and LMS and library resource choices. To ensure the institution's success and regulatory compliance, each section must have a suitable budget.

For personalized guidance, feel free to reach out to Expert Education Consultants via email at info@experteduconsult.com with any questions you may have. This service is complimentary.

To explore customized solutions tailored to your specific needs, schedule a personalized one-on-one paid consultation with Dr. Sandra Norderhaug here.  I’ve been helping clients establish universities in the US for over a decade, and I look forward to helping you, too

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