You hear so much talk about the price of college, it’s easy to get intimidated — but how much does college really cost? The answer is “It varies.” Colleges come in a wide variety and, depending on the choices you make, the price of a college education can be quite reasonable — especially if you think of college as an investment in yourself and your future. Let’s look at the facts:
What Does it Cost to Go to College?
In 2011-12, 44 percent of all full-time undergraduate college students attend a four-year college that has published charges of less than $9,000 per year for tuition and fees.
At the other end of the spectrum, approximately 28 percent of full-time private nonprofit four-year college students are enrolled in institutions charging $36,000 or more yearly in tuition and fees. These higher-priced colleges sometimes have bigger endowments and more grant aid available — which may mean that you can get more financial help to attend that institution.
At two-year colleges, the average price for tuition and fees is $2,963. Learn about the two-year college experience.
A handful of colleges either charge no tuition at all or offer all students full scholarships covering tuition costs.
Your goal is to choose a college that’s a good fit for you. Think about whether you like the campus culture and if there is enough academic support to help you do well in your classes.
Talk with your family about where you would like to go to college and what you can afford. Then take into account the total cost of attendance through graduation.
Sticker Price vs. Affordability
Keep in mind that the actual price the average undergraduate pays for a college education is considerably lower than the published tuition and fees. This is usually due to grants and other forms of financial aid. Look at what it really costs to attend college:
In 2011-12, public four-year colleges charge, on average, $8,244 in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $12,526.
Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.
Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,963 per year in tuition and fees.
Of course, that’s not the total price. You still have to live somewhere, eat, buy books and supplies, and do your laundry. Read more about additional college costs you need to consider.
Factor In Your Financial Aid Award
Most students receive financial aid. In 2010-11, about $178 billion in financial aid was awarded to undergraduate students. The average amount of aid for a full-time undergraduate student was about $12,455, including more than $6,500 in grants that don’t have to be repaid.
So, despite all the talk about high prices and price increases, a college education remains an affordable choice for most families. Learn more about how financial aid works.
Note: Price and aid figures are from the College Board's Trends in College Pricing 2011 and Trends in Student Aid 2011. Learn more online at our Trends in Higher Education website.