Average college tuition: Breaking down college costs

A college education can bring you better job opportunities, a higher earning potential and a sense of personal achievement and empowerment. But it can also be expensive. Find out more about the choices involved in going to college and the costs associated with them.

Key takeaways

  • Depending on where you choose to study and for how long, average annual tuition and fees can range from $3,860 to $10,940 in 2022-23.
  • Because college expenses can vary, it’s a good idea to research your options and know what’s available for your situation.
  • Community college and in-state tuition fees are typically lower than those of out-of-state and private colleges.
  • Other college expenses include accommodations, textbooks and other supplies.

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How much does college cost?

The cost of tuition varies depending on the state, whether you attend a two-year or four-year program, and whether you’re at a public or private school. Other cost factors include the type of degree you’re seeking, your living expenses and how long it takes to obtain your degree.

Here’s how the 2022-23 average annual tuition costs and fees for full-time students break down by institution and program type, according to The College Board, a nonprofit established to expand access to higher education: 

  • Public two-year in-district: $3,860
  • Public four-year in-state: $10,940
  • Public four-year out-of-state: $28,240
  • Private nonprofit four-year: $39,400

The price of attending college also varies significantly by state. For example, 2022-23 average tuition and fees for full-time in-state students at public four-year institutions range from $6,370 in Florida and $6,440 in Wyoming to $17,020 in New Hampshire and $17,650 in Vermont, according to The College Board. Some reasons for the variation include the level of state funding available per student, the cost of living in the state and available public resources.

College tuition cost trends

The average cost of tuition and fees has risen steadily over time. This chart from The College Board shows the average undergraduate in-district or in-state tuition and fees in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Academic year Private nonprofit four-year Public four-year Public two-year
2012-13 $37,050 $11,060 $4,030
2013-14 $37,960 $11,200 $4,080
2014-15 $38,780 $11,340 $4,140
2015-16 $40,040 $11,680 $4,210
2016-17 $40,960 $11,820 $4,230
2017-18 $41,560 $11,950 $4,240
2018-19 $41,700 $11,930 $4,240
2019-20 $42,330 $11,980 $4,250
2020-21 $42,260 $11,990 $4,250
2021-22 $41,230 $11,640 $4,120
2022-23 $39,400 $10,940 $3,860

 

Additional college expenses

Incoming freshman or super senior? Budgeting is a good habit no matter where you are in school. When creating your college budget, there are other expenses to factor in beyond tuition and fees. 

Room and board—whether you’re on campus or off—plus textbooks, class supplies, transportation and meal plans are all additional expenses that come with the cost of attendance. Here are some factors you might have to consider:

  • Room and board: Costs can vary depending on whether you live at home, in a dorm or in an off-campus apartment.
  • Textbooks and supplies: Costs can vary depending on whether you buy or rent your class textbooks and supplies and where you get them from.
  • Transportation: If you have a car, you can budget for gas, insurance, maintenance and parking. If you don’t have a car, you can budget for public transportation. 
  • Personal expenses: These could include clothing, phone bills, food and other incidentals.

Paying for school: How to afford college costs outside of your savings

If you find your college savings don’t cover all your costs, here are some other college payment options:

  • Fill out a FAFSA®: Students can go online and fill out a form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It’s often the first step in applying for financial aid—including loans, grants and scholarships. Learn more about FAFSA and how it works.
  • Apply for a grant: Grants for college students fall into two categories: need-based grants and merit-based grants. Grants can be applied to tuition, housing and other expenses for school. The need-based Pell Grant, for example, can provide undergraduate students with up to $6,895 for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Apply for scholarships: Scholarships can be merit- or need-based or meant for certain groups of people, like women or graduate students. Unlike student loans, you won’t need to pay back the money you receive from scholarships. There are several ways to find scholarships.
  • Take part in a federal work-study program: You may be able to participate in a work-study program and find a part-time job on campus to earn money needed for school.
  • Apply for a federal student loan: The government provides low-interest loans to students in need using the information provided on the FAFSA. Learn more about the different types of federal student loans.
  • Apply for a private loan: If federal financial aid isn’t an option, private student loans from a bank or credit union might be available. Sometimes state agencies or schools offer loans, too. Private student loans often require a co-signer, such as a parent.

Average college tuition in a nutshell

Besides tuition, college expenses include room and board, textbooks, meal plans, parking fees and personal expenses. You’ll also want to consider your college and its location, as some schools are significantly more expensive to attend than others. 

It can be expensive to attend college. So building credit as a student might not be top of mind while you’re there. But if you can make a start by using your card responsibly, it could give you a real advantage when you’re applying for a car loan, an apartment, a mortgage and sometimes even a job after you graduate.

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