What Is the Average Cost of a College Education?

What Is the Average Cost of a College Education?

The cost of higher education is on the rise. The scariest part of this trend is that costs are going up a noticeable amount from year to year rather than increasing a little bit at a time. According to the College Board (that’s the folks who administer the SAT exam) college students will pay an average of $400 more for room and board this year compared to last year. That number will be different from college to college, but seeing big increases in college costs over just twelve months should be enough to convince you — college costs are going up.

Average Cost of Four Year Colleges

Because colleges regularly report their costs it is easy to come up with an average cost for a college education. In 2010, a year of tuition and room and board at a private college is up to $26,273. That’s an increase of almost 5 percent from last year’s cost. The price at public institutions is up too — room and board and tuition will run you $7,000 and that number is up 6.5 percent from the last academic year.

When students want to attend a school outside of their home state the cost is even higher. This year, out of state room and board and tuition and fees will run students an average of $11,500.

Average Cost of Two Year Colleges

College doesn’t have to be this expensive — two-year colleges (which aren’t included in the above averages) are affordable and you can often finish a large portion of your course load at a two-year college before transferring to a larger school for graduation. The College Board says that 31% of college students attend one of these two-year schools, so not everyone is getting squeezed at the bursar’s office.

The average cost at a public two-year college is around $4,000 depending on what part of the country you are in. Costs at these colleges vary widely, so check at two-year colleges in your area before you decide to go to a two-year school to save money.

College Cost Statistics

There are some interesting figures related to college cost reported by the College Board. College students have found lots of ways to reduce cost (grants and scholarships) and it appears there are plenty of colleges still offering a great value. For instance, 19 percent of students who attend a private four-year college pay tuition and fees below $18,000. Sure that’s a low number, but it means that you can get a private school education somewhat closer to a public school cost. With costs at public schools rising even more rapidly than those at private school, you may as well choose a cheap private college.

Having said that, there are some great deals on public four-year schools. The College Board reports that 32 percent of full-time public college students pay less than $6,000.

The opposite end of that spectrum is the group of students who pay outlandishly high costs — apparently, only one fifth of all private school students pay anything higher than $36,000.

College costs aren’t going to start a downward trend anytime soon. The issue of cost adds one more wrinkle to the already difficult college decision process. Consider cost differences between public and private universities as well as the differences between two-year and four-year programs before committing to any college.

This article answers the question “what is the average cost of a college education?” Other articles in this series include:

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