College expenses range from tuition to housing to bus passes. See how all these costs add up to a college's "sticker price."
In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2014–2015 academic year averaged $23,410. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $46,272. But what goes into these costs?
Tuition is what colleges charge for the instruction they provide. Colleges charge tuition by the units that make up an academic year, such as a semester or quarter. Tuition at public colleges is often a bargain for state residents, but not for out-of-staters, who often pay double the tuition of residents.
Tuition can vary by major. Students in the sciences, engineering, computing, premed programs, and the fine arts often pay more. For example, at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, students enrolled in the science and engineering programs paid $5,004 more in tuition for the 2014–2015 academic year.
Colleges charge fees for services. These fees may include the library, campus transportation, student government, and athletic facilities.
Colleges often report a combined tuition and fees figure. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
Housing and Meals
The cost of "room and board" depends on the campus housing and food plans you choose. The College Board reports that the average cost of room and board in 2014–2015 ranged from $9,804 at four-year public schools to $11,188 at private schools. Colleges also provide room and board estimates for living off campus based on typical student costs.
Books and School Supplies
Most colleges estimate the average costs for required learning materials. Some colleges even include the cost of a computer and computer accessories. The College Board reports the average cost for books and supplies for the 2014–2015 school year was $1,146 at public colleges and $1,244 at private colleges.
Personal and Transportation Expenses
Colleges may estimate some expenses they don't bill you for. These include local transportation, clothing, personal items, entertainment, etc. The College Board reports that expenses in this category for 2014–2015 ran from $2,609 at private colleges to $3,242 at public universities.
Don't Give Up on a College Because of Its Sticker Price
The price of college may seem overwhelming, but college educations come at many different price levels, and financial aid can greatly reduce your cost.
- Learn about getting financial aid and what financial aid types are best.
- The reported college "cost of attendance" is rarely the cost students pay. Learn why net price is the most critical figure for families to consider.
- Use the Net Price Calculator to estimate your net price to attend any four-year college.
Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.