How Much Does a College Education Cost?
Many adults overestimate the cost of college or believe that all schools are expensive. For example, a 1996 survey found that members of the public overestimated the tuition of both public two- and four-year colleges by two to three times the actual average tuition, a mistake of more than $3,000.
Although some colleges are expensive, costs vary from institution to institution. In addition, the availability of financial aid -- money available from various sources to help students pay for college -- can make even an expensive college affordable for a qualified student.
The basic costs of college are tuition, fees, and other expenses:
Tuition is the amount of money that colleges charge for instruction and for the use of some facilities, such as libraries. Tuition can range from a few hundred dollars per year to more than $30,000. The least costly option for postsecondary education is typically a local community college where the average tuition and fees are under $1,700 per year. There are also many four-year colleges and universities that are relatively inexpensive. For example, Chart 4 shows that a little more than half of the students who attend four-year colleges go to institutions that charge less than $4,000 in tuition and fees. This occurs because about 66 percent of the students who attend four-year colleges attend public institutions which have lower tuition rates than those of private institutions.
Fees are charges (usually small) that cover costs generally not associated with the student's course load, such as costs of some athletic activities, student activities, clubs, and special events.
Besides tuition and fees, students at many colleges and universities pay for room, board, books, supplies, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs. "Room and board" refers to the cost of housing and food. Typical college costs are listed in Chart 5 below.
Typical College Costs
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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