What's the Price Tag for a College Education?
Tuition is only one part of the cost of going to college. Other expenses range from meals
to housing to bus passes. Learn how all these expenses 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 2013-2014 academic year
averaged $22,826. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $44,750. But what
makes up these charges? Of course, financial aid might help cover some costs, but it is
good to know how they add up to a total "cost of attendance" figure provided by the
What Goes into the Cost of College?
First of all, there is tuition, the money you pay a college for academic instruction. Then
there are "fees," charges for specific services such as Internet access. Many colleges list
"tuition and fees" as one amount without breaking it down. And lastly, there are all the
other expenses associated with going to college: housing, meals, books, school supplies,
and "miscellaneous." If you are wondering what's behind these costs, read on.
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. An academic
year typically runs from fall through spring.
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. (Other costs, such as student fees and room
and board, are usually the same for residents and nonresidents.)
Tuition at some colleges 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 $4,920 more in tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year. This is called
"variable tuition" and it is worth checking into if you have a major in mind.
Student fees run the gamut from library access and parking to student government and
registration. Colleges usually provide a student fee total, breaking out only the most
What else can be included? Typical items are ID cards, membership in the student union,
health insurance, athletic facility usage, diplomas and graduation expenses, laboratory
supplies, studio usage, computer access, local bus service, and student activities. At
some colleges, first-year students must pay a one-time fee to cover orientation and
administrative costs. If you want to know more about student fees, contact the registrar's
office, cashier, financial aid office, or admissions office.
Tuition and Fees Combined
The cost for one year of tuition and fees varies widely among colleges. According to the
College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 school year was