Learn About the Cost of College

Don't let the cost stop you from pursuing a higher education.


How much is college going to cost me?

Unfortunately, there's no perfect formula for figuring out how much money college will cost. The costs for things like tuition and books change every semester and depend on the college or university that you select. However, there are a variety of tools available on this website that can help you develop a good estimate of your college expenses (such as Major Choices). In addition, financial aid is available to help you meet the expenses of college.

So, how much does a college education cost?

That's a tough question — The answer depends on many different factors.

There's no college-cost formula that you can plug numbers into. Costs may change every semester and depend on the college or university you select.

Tuition and fees are usually combined and range from $2,000 a year to more than $20,000. Community colleges usually offer the least expensive tuition costs, but many four-year colleges and universities are also relatively inexpensive, especially for resident or in-state students.

This is about what it costs today for tuition and fees at national institutions:

Sector Tuition and Fees Books and Supplies Room and Board Trans- portation Other Expenses Total Expenses**
Two-Year Public
Resident $2,402 $1,036 * * * *
Commuter $2,402 $1,036 $7,341 $1,380 $1,895 $14,054
Four-Year Public
Resident $6,585 $1,077 $7,748 $1,010 $1,906 $18,326
Commuter $6,585 $1,077 $7,814 $1,401 $2,197 $19,074
Out-of-State $17,452 $1,077 $7,748 $1,010 $1,906 $29,193
Four-Year Private
Resident $25,143 $1,054 $8,989 $807 $1,397 $37,390
Commuter $25,143 $1,054 $7,696 $1,241 $1,784 $36,918

* Sample too small to provide meaningful information.

** Average total expenses include room and board costs for commuter students, which are average estimated living expenses for students living off campus but not with parents.

Source: Trends in College Pricing, College Board.


Other costs

As you can see, tuition and fees are not the only things factored into the cost of college. You also have to pay for books, supplies, and transportation. And don't forget room and board — the money you spend for a place to live and food to eat. These costs can also vary greatly. Also, whether you live at home, in a small town, in a big city, on campus, or share a place with friends, all help to determine how much you'll pay for room and board.

So, even though there's no exact answer to what it costs to go to college today, it is possible to make a good guess. Figure out what kind of school you want to attend and find out how much it costs to attend. From there, tack on an estimated percentage increase — five percent per year is a good guess.

Remember that even though you can expect the costs to go up by the time you go, the money you have available will probably increase along with it.

College pays off in the long run

While college can be expensive for some students, this should not stop you from pursuing a higher education.

The money you invest in a college education will pay off in the long run. In fact, recent studies show that over the course of a person's working life, individuals with a bachelor's degree will earn $2.1 million on average — nearly twice as much as workers with only a high school diploma.

To learn more about how to finance your education, visit the following links:


Here are other documents located on AIE.org that you may be interested in: