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Planning and the Average Cost of College

According to a report by the College Board, in 2010-2011 the average in-state tuition and fees plus room and board at public universities came to a total of $16,140, which compared to a total of $36,993 for tuition and fees plus room and board at private nonprofit universities. At first glance, the average cost of college seems like a very handy figure to know as you start to plan your finances and calculate how much college is really going to cost. However, the average cost of college may really be no more useful than a host of other macroeconomic indicators that can be difficult to place yourself in relation to.

To give you a better idea of what your college costs will be like, let’s break the major expenses down. Real college costs include direct college-related expenses like tuition and fees as well as living expenses like housing and transportation.

Consider Tuition and Fees While Planning for the Cost of College

Colleges and universities charge tuition and fees to cover academic instruction but also services and facilities such as the student association, health center, library, technology, student activities, and career services. The fees are non-negotiable even if you don’t use those services at the school, but you can pick which school and how much tuition you’re willing to pay. The tuition and fees charged at local public universities are typically lower than that charged at private universities. In 2010-2011, in-state tuition and fees at public universities cost an average of $7,605; at the same time, tuition and fees at private nonprofit universities cost an average of $27,293. However, the averages varied by region: public universities charged an average tuition of $6,428 in the South and an average tuition of $9,857 in New England.

Tuition Hikes

If you want to study a bachelor’s degree, you should be prepared to pay for four to five years of full-time study; an associate’s degree takes two years of full-time study and a master’s degree takes one to three years. At the same time, you should be prepared to factor in tuition increases, or hikes, which may occur during the time you complete your studies. Tuition has gone up an average of between 2.7 and 5.6 percent each year, depending on the type of university, for the last ten years.


Housing is probably the college cost that varies the most. If you choose to live rent free with your parents, you will obviously pay zero for this category, but opting to live on your own may put you back thousands of dollars. Depending on the college and the town it is located in, living on campus in a residence hall may be a cheaper or more expensive option than living off campus in shared housing with other college roommates. However, it is good to know that living on campus in a residence hall is typically the baseline cost used in college room and board averages and calculations.


While walking to and from campus is a cheap and healthy transportation option, it’s not always feasible with distances and schedules. Students can often get discounts on bus passes and other public transportation. Otherwise, if you need a car, remember to budget for that as well.

Books and Supplies

Textbooks and office supplies are necessary tools for every college student. Purchasing new textbooks can quickly add up, as many of them cost upwards of $100 each, but a number of universities offer used textbooks for sale as well as buy-back services at the end of the semester for students looking to cut costs. If you’re fast enough to beat other students to the punch, you can really save costs by checking the textbooks out from the school’s library.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EnginePaying for College