The average cost of college tuition varies widely based on location and whether the school is public or private. The average cost of college for in-state students at a four-year institution in 2022-23 was almost $11K. Students at private nonprofit four-year institutions paid over $39K on average.
Read on for more information about average tuition costs and other expenses facing college students.
The Average Cost of College
According to the College Board’s annual “Trends in College Pricing” report, the average cost of attending a four-year college as an in-state student at a public university during the 2022-23 school year was $10,950. For an out-of-state student attending a public four-year college, the average rose to $28,240.
The average cost of attending a private four-year institution was $39,400. These averages are based on the published price at a college or university. This includes tuition, fees, and room and board.
Cost is a major factor for students deciding which school to attend. According to the annual Sallie Mae survey “How America Pays for College 2022,” 60% of parents and students eliminated a college based on cost after receiving their financial aid package.
Historical Average Cost of Tuition
The cost of tuition has increased dramatically over time. For the 2002-03 school year, the average cost of college tuition at a public four-year institution was $4,202 for a student receiving in-state tuition. In 20 years, tuition rose to $11,541 for the 2022-23 school year.
U.S. News reviewed tuition costs at 440 ranked National Universities, those universities included as part of the annual college rankings. According to their data, the average tuition and fees at private National Universities increased by 134% in 20 years from 2003 to 2023. During the same period, at four-year public National Universities, tuition for out-of-state students increased by 141%, and for in-state students it rose by 175%.
Average Total Cost of College
A traditional undergraduate college degree takes four years to complete, which means four years of tuition costs. According to EducationData.org, the cost of college has risen, on average, about 7.1% annually since 2000.
Year-over-year changes can fluctuate greatly, however, so it can be challenging to predict exactly how much a student will pay in tuition costs over the course of their degree. For example, the “Trends in College Pricing” report found that in-state tuition costs at public four-year institutions increased just 1.8% from the 2021-22 to the 2022-2023 school year. For that same time period, tuition increased 3.5% at private nonprofit four-year institutions.
To get a rough estimate of how much college will cost in its entirety, you can take the current tuition rate and multiply it by four. Keep in mind this won’t account for any increase in the cost of tuition.
Average Additional College Expenses
Tuition generally makes up the majority of a student’s college expenses. But there are other fees and costs to factor in, including room and board, books, and other supplies. As you plan how to pay your tuition, students might also consider general living expenses.
What Is the Cost of Room and Board?
Some colleges charge “comprehensive fees,” which reflect the total for tuition, fees, and room and board. Other schools charge room and board separately from tuition and fees. The cost of room and board typically accounts for the cost of housing (i.e., a dorm room or on-campus apartment) and the meal plan.
The average cost of on-campus room and board for the 2022-23 school year was $11,557 for four-year public institutions for both in-state and out-of-state students, and $12,857 for four-year private nonprofit institutions.
The actual cost will vary depending on the type of housing you live in and the meal plan you choose. Housing can be another determining factor for students. According to the same 2021 Sallie Mae survey, 85% of college students selected a college in their home state and 39% live at home or with relatives to save on housing costs.
The Cost of Extra Classes
Tuition at some schools covers the cost of a certain number of credit hours. Your credit hours can vary each term depending on the classes you enroll in. If you exceed the number of credit hours covered by tuition, you may pay an additional fee.
Books and Supplies
On top of those expenses, don’t forget to budget for books and supplies. The average college student attending a four-year college spends $1,226 on textbooks per year.
Transportation is another major category of expenses for college students. Will you have a car on campus? If so, plan to pay for gas, insurance, and a parking permit. How often do you plan to go home? Will a trip to visit your family require airfare?
Other Living Expenses
Then there are additional personal expenses like eating out, laundry, and your monthly cell phone bill. To get an idea of how much you’ll actually spend every month, it helps to review your current spending.
College may be the first time you’ve had to learn how to budget. Consider sitting down with your parents, an older sibling, or a trusted friend who has already navigated their first year of college to get an idea of the expenses you may encounter.
Paying for College
There are, of course, options available to help you finance your education. Whether you’re going to college for the first time or returning for further education, consider looking into the following options:
First Thing’s First: The FAFSA
A common first step for students interested in securing federal financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). As you get ready to apply, pay attention to deadlines, as they vary by school and state. After you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll receive an offer letter detailing the type of aid you qualify for. This may include scholarships and grants, work-study, and federal student loans.
Planning ahead is one way to set yourself up to successfully pay for college. If you’re not quite ready to fill out the FAFSA yet, you can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator at StudentAid.gov/Aid-Estimator/ to get an idea of how much aid you might qualify for.
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Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants can be immensely helpful when it comes to paying for college, since that money doesn’t need to be repaid. In addition to filing the FAFSA, you can check to see if there are any other scholarship opportunities for which you may qualify. There are also online resources and databases that compile different scholarship opportunities.
The federal work-study program is another form of aid that can help students pay for college. If you are eligible for work-study and receive it in your financial aid award, you may still have to find your own employment at your university. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out if your school participates and whether they will place you or if they have a work-study job board.
Of course, other jobs for college students are available, but students will have to pursue those on their own.
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Student loans offer another avenue for students to finance their college education. Unlike scholarships and grants, however, student loans must be repaid. There are two kinds of student loans — federal and private.
Federal Student Loans
Applying for student loans requires filling out the FAFSA. Federal loans for undergraduates can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. With a subsidized loan, borrowers won’t be responsible for paying the interest that accrues on the loan while they are actively enrolled in school at least half-time. With an unsubsidized loan, borrowers are responsible for paying the accrued interest during all periods.
Whether subsidized or unsubsidized, loan repayment generally doesn’t begin until after graduation (or a student drops below half-time) and a grace period.
Most grace periods for federal loans are six months. Interest rates on federal student loans are set by the government and are fixed for the life of the loan.
Federal loans aren’t guaranteed to cover your undergraduate or graduate school tuition costs. There are borrowing limits that restrict the amount of federal loans a student can take out each year. For example, a first year undergrad, dependent student is currently allowed to borrow $5,500 in federal loans. In some cases, private student loans may be used to fill in the gaps.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, or other lenders. Terms and conditions of a private student loan are set by the individual lender.
Private lenders will likely review a borrower’s credit history and other financial factors in order to determine what type of loan they may qualify for. If an applicant is applying with a cosigner, private student loan lenders will look at their financial background as well, which might include things like their credit score and current income.
While federal student loans come with fixed interest rates, private student loans can have fixed or variable interest rates. Variable interest rates may start lower than fixed rates, but they rise and fall in accordance to current market rates.
Private student loans don’t carry the same benefits and protections offered by federal student loans — such as income-driven repayment and loan deferment options. Some lenders may offer their own benefits. SoFi, for example, has Unemployment Protection, which helps eligible borrowers modify their loan payments if they lose their job through no fault of their own.
The average cost of college tuition for the 2022-23 school year was about $11K for students paying in-state tuition at a four-year public institution. For out-of-state students, the average was $28K. At a private four year institution it was $39K. Paying for college usually requires a combination of financing options, including savings, scholarships, grants, work-study, federal student loans, and even private student loans.
Private student loans aren’t going to be the right choice for every student. If they seem right for you, SoFi’s private student loans are worth considering. SoFi private student loans have no fees — that means no late fees or origination fees — and the application process is entirely online, even if you need to add a cosigner.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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