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College Tuition and Fees

When it comes to understanding college tuition costs, the more information, the better. Because tuition and fees are the lion’s share of the total price of college, they are the most important details to research when trying to save money while earning your degree.

Tuition and fees vary tremendously based on where you live, the type of school you attend, your program of study, and your institution’s policies. Luckily, plenty of data exists to help you compare price points and successfully navigate your way through the financial challenges of school.

Factors that Affect the Average Cost for College

If you ask 10 people, “How much does a college education cost?” you’ll hear 10 different answers. That’s because no two experiences are the same. A variety of factors influence what you’ll end up paying for your degree.

Private vs. public institution

This is perhaps one of the biggest factors when it comes to average college tuition. Because private schools rely on endowments and donations to fund operations, the cost of attendance is generally higher. Public universities are funded through state taxes. This lowers the cost of attendance. Students who attend school in the state they reside usually incur lower costs than students who live out-of-state.

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Place of residence

Where you live can affect much more than just tuition at a public university. Residence is a broad category, including the state and city where you live and the size of your household.

Tuition assistance

Some states offer discount waivers specifically designed to help students attend college. For example, Tennessee, California, and Rhode Island all grant waivers for individuals to earn an associate degree with minimal costs. Indiana offers waivers for four-year degrees. Other states have no such policies. According to U.S. News and World Report, 17 states currently offer some kind of tuition-free college program.

Cost of living

Your location also plays a factor. While not directly related to school expenses, consider your cost of living when it comes to calculating the total price of your degree. Cost of living covers everything from food to transportation to housing to entertainment. If you want to attend a school located in an expensive area and want to avoid a higher cost of living, online degrees can be a great way to save money on tuition.

Housing

This is another expense that factors into the overall cost of college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, living off campus is typically cheaper than living on campus. Living with family rather than living alone may reduce your costs even more. When choosing a living situation, look for ways to cut costs, like having a roommate or sticking to a monthly housing budget.

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Fees

While nearly all colleges have at least some fees, the types and amounts differ tremendously. They can vary based on your academic course of study, the classes you take, and the services you use. College fees may be tied to one-time events like graduation. Here are a few types of fees that may be required:

  • Orientation fees
  • Commencement fees
  • Laboratory fees
  • Technology fees
  • Student services fees
  • Graduation fees
  • Athletic fees
  • Program-associated fees (e.g. nursing)
  • Enrollment fees
  • Instructional materials access fees

When researching the cost of tuition, it’s not enough to simply know that prices vary. To make an informed decision, a wealth of data is required.

College Tuition Comparison Charts

Here are several helpful charts that compare various aspects of college tuition. Find what applies to you to make a smart financial decision about your education.

Chart 1: Average Total Cost of Attending Degree-Granting Institutions for First-Time, Full-Time Undergraduate Students, 2015-16

Four-Year InstitutionsTwo-Year Institutions
Public
Living on campus$23,700$14,700
Off campus, living with family$14,100$9,000
Off campus, not living with family$24,000$17,400
Private Nonprofit
Living on campus$48,900$31,700
Off campus, living with family$38,700$22,500
Off campus, not living with family$48,000$31,000
Private For-Profit
Living on campus$31,300$29,900
Off campus, living with family$22,000$20,300
Off campus, not living with family$29,500$29,000
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Chart 2: Tuition and Required Fees by State and Program Type in Current Dollars, 2015-16*

StatePublic, Four-Year InstitutionPrivate Four-Year InstitutionPublic Two-Year Institution
In-State CostsOut-of-State Costs(N/A)In-State CostsOut-of-State Costs
AL$9,179$23,261$15,359$4,289$8,464
AK$6,880$20,463$19,957$3,340$3,340
AZ$9,884$24,161$12,667$2,061$8,255
AR$7,557$18,306$20,936$3,105$4,638
CA$9,070$31,526$29,519$1,246$6,968
CO$9,128$27,986$22,332$3,630$8,915
CT$11,106$32,870$37,679$4,039$12,100
DE$11,670$28,962$14,200$3,215$6,548
DC$5,251$11,233$38,901N/AN/A
FL$4,438$17,656$22,793$2,387$8,862
GA$7,011$23,167$25,754$3,181$7,929
HI$9,263$27,911$15,561$2,935$7,930
ID$6,915$20,624$6,006$3,108$7,959
IL$13,387$27,909$29,639$3,692$10,630
IN$8,745$28,313$30,533$4,115$7,992
IA$7,879$24,136$25,308$4,478$5,832
KS$8,011$20,901$17,827$3,201$4,395
KY $9,490$22,321$24,258$3,650$12,478
LA$8,162$23,099$32,733$3,919$7,292
ME$9,186$25,598$34,277$3,648$6,396
MD$8,942$21,768$38,352$3,816$9,147
MA$11,670$27,736$40,761$4,559$9,944
MI$11,708$34,863$22,018$3,179$6,590
MN$10,701$18,295$29,377$5,332$5,975
MS$7,175$18,516$16,438$2,645$4,810
MO$8,178$19,860$22,416$3,016$5,814
MT$6,443$22,145$22,961$3,310$9,177
NE$7,446$18,651$21,641$2,852$3,910
NV$5,298$20,355$18,827$2,805$9,450
NH$14,986$26,795$31,979$6,999$15,204
NJ$13,021$27,358$34,040$4,223$7,462
NM$6,262$15,842$20,532$1,553$4,909
NY$7,647$20,305$36,361$4,969$8,756
NC$6,944$23,309$29,307$2,391$8,300
ND$7,208$17,727$13,883$4,506$8,719
OH$9,757$23,179$28,953$3,642$7,738
OK$6,680$18,458$23,658$3,349$8,019
OR$9,406$28,676$35,034$4,148$7,874
PA$13,516$25,367$37,237$4,791$11,801
RI$11,321$27,967$37,406$4,266$11,496
SC$11,791$28,702$23,167$4,219$8,510
SD$8,273$11,592$22,164$5,419$5,253
TN$8,932$24,554$25,053$3,940$15,346
TX$8,091$21,677$28,880$2,017$5,502
UT$6,140$18,501$7,571$3,569$11,337
VT$15,062$36,475$39,518$6,054$11,958
VA$11,669$31,559$21,016$4,793$10,867
WA$7,782$28,849$34,412$3,771$6,565
WV$6,900$18,833$11,721$3,825$9,077
WI$8,504$21,327$29,777$4,382$7,336
WY$4,178$12,770$18,021$2,788$6,733
* Most recent data available
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Chart 3: Least Expensive States by Institution and Program Type

 Public Four-YearPrivate Four-YearPublic Two-Year
RankIn-State CostsOut-of-State Costs(N/A)In-State CostsOut-of-State Costs
1WyomingWashington, D.C.IdahoCaliforniaArkansas
2FloridaSouth DakotaUtahNew MexicoNebraska
3Washington, D.C.WyomingWest VirginiaTexasKansas
4NevadaNew MexicoArizonaArizonaAlaska
5UtahFloridaNorth DakotaFloridaMississippi

Chart 4: Most Expensive States by Institution and Program Type

 Public Four-YearPrivate Four-YearPublic Two-Year
RankIn-State CostsOut-of-State Costs(N/A)In-State CostsOut-of-State Costs
1VermontVermontMassachusettsNew HampshireTennessee
2New HampshireMichiganVermontVermontNew Hampshire
3PennsylvaniaConnecticutWashington, D.C.South DakotaKentucky
4IllinoisVirginiaMarylandMinnesotaConnecticut
5New JerseyCaliforniaConnecticutNew YorkVermont

Financing Your Future

As you can see, college tuition costs vary based on a multitude of factors. Being smart about your choices is a great way to lower the price of your degree. Earning a degree online is an intelligent decision for cost-conscious students, as it eliminates many of the expenses associated with the traditional university experience and allows you to work while you study.

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