College Calculator: The Real Cost Of College


College may be everything for a student– it is a place where the potential will be honed, where talent will be exposed and where the student will be meeting another set of friends who will go with him throughout the journey. But for the parent, how much does college really cost?

The True Cost Of College

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the years 2010-11, the average tuition fee for an entire school year was $32,617. This figure is for a private, four-year institution. It also includes room and board rates.

The good news for students and parents is that the actual cost versus the sticker price can end up being much lower. This is because the average tuition price doesn’t take into account financial aid like grants and scholarships, which can in fact reduce out-of-pocket costs significantly. Because of these aids, most students can expect to pay much less than their colleges’ advertised costs.

The Real Deal: The Average College Costs

Whilst tuition and costs vary at each college and university, in general, two-year institutions and community colleges are less expensive per year than four-year schools. Public schools are also much cheaper (roughly an average of  $ 21,447) than private ones ($ 42,442), especially for in-state students.

Factoring Other Costs

The cost of tuition, with room and board, is not the only expense college students and their parents have. They will also have to endure grocery or meal plan charges, transportation costs and car maintenance, and some discretionary spending for clothing, eating out and entertainment expenses. These expenses are part of the basic cost of living. They are incremental costs on top of the tuition and fees.

How To Get Through

Many financial aid can help bring down the cost of higher education. These aids can range from assistance with smaller costs like textbooks to full scholarships that cover the complete cost of tuition. The financial aids vary from school to school, student to student. It also depends on the student’s competency and the socio-economic standing of the family.

The Verdict

Overall, after accounting everything that needs to be considered, it can be rightfully said that the average student pays much less than the sticker price.

In the 2012-13 school year, the undergraduates at public four-year schools were said to have paid an average of $2,900, which is only a portion of the published tuition and fees. Meanwhile, students who are enrolled in private, nonprofit four-year schools were also granted high levels of aid, paying about $13,380, which is actually less than half the $29,056 average sticker price. For the students in public two-year colleges, they were able to receive the most aid in relation to tuition and fees amounting to an average of $4,350 in aid alone which is significantly more than the $3,131 average published tuition costs.

The sad reality is that college is worth whatever you are willing to pay. Many students cannot afford the full sticker price but there are other students whose families are completely willing and have the capacity to pay full price. Regardless of the cost, college is always worth the investment. The world is more competitive than ever nowadays, and college graduates earn significantly higher wages than less-educated individuals.


Lucy is a finance graduate who is working as an intern with an accountancy firm in Toronto. In her free time she loves to blog and write resourceful articles on how to survive college with minimum budge, guides on where to buy textbooks for less.

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