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How Much Does College Cost?

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When thinking about the price of college, people often focus on college tuition costs. But the total price tag can include additional expenses ranging from housing and transportation to school supplies. Let's take a look at the average costs behind a year of college.

In its 2022 report, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, the College Board reports that a moderate college budget for an in-state student attending a four-year public college in 2022-2023 averages $27,940. For out-of-state students at public colleges, the average budget comes to $45,240, and for students attending private colleges, the average budget is $57,570.


Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, 2022.

What Expenses Go Into the Cost of College?

Colleges estimate the total cost to attend their institution for a single year -- not including grants and scholarships -- in a figure called the Cost of Attendance (COA). Think of the COA as a college’s “sticker price.” Need-based aid, merit aid, and scholarships can reduce your total cost.

Generally, colleges include the following expenses in their COA:

  • tuition and fees
  • room and board
  • books and supplies
  • transportation and personal expenses

Take a look at the average total price colleges charged in these categories for the 2022-2023 academic year, and keep them in mind when you are planning your own college budget.

Average College Tuition and Fees

Although college tuition and fees are separate costs, colleges usually report a combined tuition and fees figure. For the 2022-2023 academic year, the average price of tuition and fees came to:

  • $39,400 at private colleges
  • $10,940 at public colleges (in-state residents)
  • $28,240 at public colleges (out-of-state residents)

What is college tuition? College 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 usually lower for in-state residents. Out-of-state students often pay double the tuition as in-state students.

Tuition can vary by major. Students in the sciences, engineering, computing, pre-med programs, and the fine arts often pay higher tuition than students in other majors. For example, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, students enrolled in the College of Engineering pay up to $5,000 more in tuition per year than students pursuing majors in the liberal arts.

What college fees cover. Fees may support services such as the library, campus transportation, student government, and athletic facilities. Fees charged can vary widely from college to college. For example, the University of California, Irvine charges students a “campus spirit fee” to help support the athletics and school spirit programs and a fee for student health insurance.

college-price-tag_image-2_2021Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, 2022.

What is the Cost of Room and Board?

The cost of room and board depends on the campus housing and food plans you choose. Living at home with parents will reduce your costs. For the 2022-2023 academic year, average room and board costs are

  • $14,030 at private colleges
  • $12,310 at public colleges

Some colleges provide room and board estimates for living off-campus. At public colleges, room and board costs are usually the same for in-state and out-of-state residents.


Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, 2022.

Cost of Books and School Supplies

The average price of books and school supplies for students at both public and private colleges in 2022-2023 is $1,240.

Over the past ten years, student spending on course materials has declined 44%, according to market research firm Student Monitor. Between 2021-2022 and 2022-23, the average amount students spent on books decreased by 22%, from an average of $405 per student to $314 per student. Some of the reasons for this decline include increased options for students, such as renting textbooks, and an increase in the use of digital materials which can sometimes be less expensive than printed books.

Yet, students often don’t purchase suggested or required textbooks due to their high price tag. According to a survey by Book Scouter, 65% of students said they had skipped buying a textbook because of the cost.

Other Expenses

Colleges may estimate some expenses they don't bill you for. These include local transportation, clothing, personal items, and entertainment. The College Board reports that for the academic year 2022-2023, expenses in this category range from $1,830 at private colleges to $2,200 at public universities.

College Net Price vs. Sticker Price

While a college's sticker price can give you an idea of your college costs, it's important to consider a college’s net price, which is the price students and families pay after factoring in financial aid. According to the College Board, the average "net price" families are paying for the 2022-2023 academic year is approximately:

  • $32,800 at private colleges*
  • $19,250 at public colleges*

*After subtracting financial aid and distributions from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

The average grant aid awarded per student was $8,690 at public colleges and $24,770 at private schools. 

college-price-tag_image-4_2021Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, 2022.

The cost of college may seem overwhelming, but a college education comes at many different price levels, and financial aid can reduce the total cost. Look at the Cost of Attendance as the maximum you and your family might pay. Your college net price can be much lower.




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