How Much Does College Cost?

Jan 23, 2019 | by Savings Institute
  • College Savings

If you have goals for higher education, college affordability is probably a top priority, whether you’re a student or parent. Everyone knows college is expensive, but when evaluating the cost of college, it’s important to consider and plan for all expenses, from tuition to housing, meals and more.

Paying for College

The cost of a college education has risen significantly over the last 20 years and has outpaced inflation dramatically. The average tuition and fees at private universities increased 157%, while out-of-state tuition and fees at public colleges rose 194%. Topping this list are the in-state tuition and fees at public universities, which jumped 237% over the last 20 years according to U.S. News

Beyond the price tag of college tuition, other school-related costs such as books, technology and living expenses are also on the rise. To plan appropriately, it’s smart to understand how these costs break down and what you can do to defray them.   

College Tuition Costs on Average 

Tuition costs differ among public and private institutions, two-year and four-year schools and across regions and states. The cost of college tuition and fees will vary based on the type of school and the length of time spent there. A recent survey by the College Board reported the national averages for college tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year for public and private schools.

Tuition at public colleges is often less expensive for in-state residents but could be double the cost for out-of-state students. College tuition costs also vary based on the school’s location. Here are the average tuition and fees for one year, based on the 2018-19 school year. 

New England 

  • Public two-year in district: $5,560
  • Public four year in-state: $13,400
  • Private nonprofit four-year: $46,950

Find out the average college tuition for Connecticut and Rhode Island by using the trends by state table from the College Board. For more detailed information on how much a specific college or university may cost, explore the College Affordability and Transparency Center from the U.S. Department of Education. 

Comparing the Cost of Room and Board vs. Living Off Campus 

Room and board constitute another significant expense in college. If a student lives on campus, the cost depends on the campus housing and food plans chosen. According to the College Board, the average cost of room and board is $11,140 at public schools and $12,608 at private schools, but these figures will vary by region. For example, the average room and board for a public four-year institution starts at $8,760 in the Southwest region and can get up to $12,310 on the West Coast. 

If a college student is planning to live off campus, you’ll also factor in the cost of meals and rent, while if you live at home, you’ll also want to include meals. The New York Times reported that 87% of college students live off campus, and that many times, room and board or rent expenses are under-reported on various websites, which can cause many students delays in finishing school due to financial issues. 

Trulia also released a study which found many disparities between off-campus housing estimates by school websites vs their own data. For example, they found off-campus housing estimated at $6,345 by the University of California in Santa Barbara; however, their data showed that sharing a two-bedroom apartment near the school would cost each student a startling $13,478. 

To figure out your budget, you need the most accurate numbers possible. 

Consider the College Textbooks and School Supplies

Every college student will need textbooks and school supplies, which adds to the total cost of college education. The College Board reports that the average cost of books and school supplies for the 2016-2017 school year at a private college was $2,720 and averaged $3,270 at public universities. Most schools will provide an estimate of the average costs for the required learning materials based on the program the student is entering. 

Factoring in Additional Personal Expenses

Personal expenses must be a consideration when creating a college budget. These expenses include laundry, dining out, transportation, cell phone, entertainment, clothes and more. To keep these costs in check, college students need to learn valuable money management skills and take advantage of banking products geared towards students, like a free checking account, which offer perks including no minimum balance required and no monthly service charge. These factors can be key when you are down to your last $5 for laundry. 

Reducing the Cost of College

To help reduce the hefty tuition price tag, it’s wise to invest time in applying for financial aid, scholarships and grants each year. The College Board estimated the average undergraduate college student received $14,210 in 2016, with $8,170 in the form of grants. It's helpful to know grants are awarded based on financial need, and scholarships are awarded based on academic or athletic achievement. Unlike a student loan, these two options are often referred to as “gift aid” and doesn't need to be repaid. 

You can also defray some of the costs of books and supplies by buying, renting or selling your textbooks through the school or online, or using digital versions. 

Paying for College

While college years might seem far off, it’s smart to begin saving as early as possible. Start putting aside money in a 529 college savings plan for specific tax advantages your accountant can explain thoroughly. To pay for the rest, consider taking out a student loan. 

Savings Institute Bank & Trust can help make saving for college less overwhelming. Speak with a trusted lender who can explain your options and help guide you and your family every step of the way.

It’s never too early to start saving

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