The True Cost of College

Here’s How it all Adds Up – Tuition, Books, Fees, and More

Remember when gas was less than $1, the only place to see movies was at the theater, and when you left your house no one could call you? If your memory is that good, you might remember when paying for college didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Over the past 20 years, tuition and fees at public universities have surged almost 130%, while family incomes have decreased. So while tuition goes up, the money families earn to pay for it has gone down.

iStock_000006819993_ExtraSmallNo math teacher in the world can give you the secret formula for calculating the true cost of college. Costs can change every semester, tuition and fees can too – and they range from $2,000 a year to more than $25,000, depending on the type of college your child goes to. When you start pricing schools you’ll most likely face a wide range of costs. Here are average 2012 – 2013 costs broken down by size/year.

Public 2 year college: $15,584

Public 4 year college: $22,261

Private 4 year college: $43,289

Adding it all up? Be sure you include all this (and more)….Tuition and fees are not the only things factored into the cost of college. You also have to pay for:

Room and board — college costs generally start with a place to live and food to eat

Books — lots and lots of books

Supplies — everything from a laptop and a microwave to a backpack and bedding

Transportation — you’ve got to get them to school and back (over and over again for about 4 years)

Of course, just like tuition, these costs can also vary greatly. Be sure you speak the language. When you start comparing colleges, you need to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples (and we’re not talking iPads). Here are three terms you’ll need to know in reviewing college costs:

Tuition and fees — Tuition is the basic cost of instruction. Fees are mandatory extra charges added to those basic costs.

Direct costs — Colleges with dorms and cafeterias sometimes list a “direct costs” which includes tuition, fees, room and board. These expenses are considered “direct” because they make up the bills students pay directly to the college.

Indirect costs — Remember that students will have other costs, such as text books, laundry, and travel.

Start saving now! As you start to look into college costs, the one thing you’ll almost certainly find….it’s never too early (or too late) to start saving.

*The College Board, Trends in College Pricing Report 2012

  1. […] not just the cost of tuition – there’s room and board, fees, and books as well, which add up surprisingly […]


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