Average Cost of College – Facts & Figures


It’s no secret — the average cost of college stateside has skyrocketed in recent years. In the good old days, baby boomers were able to support themselves through higher education with just part-time summer jobs. Nowadays, millennials are struggling through their adult lives to repay the huge student loans they took out. While the rising cost of college has rendered higher education more expensive, it is not out of reach for most people, and, with some careful planning, it can even turn out to be a bargain. Read on for our full analysis.

Stats and Facts on the Average Cost of College

  • In-state students pay about $103,456 to attend a four-year college.
  • Out-of-state students pay $174,884 on average for higher education.
  • In the last 20 years, the cost of college has grown at a rate of 6.8% per year.
  • The average college class costs approximately $1,677.
  • The average cost of attending college online varies between $38,496 and $60,593.
  • A student will spend about $1,200 per year on textbooks.

Average Cost of 4 Year College Statistics

1. Alumni of an in-state institution should expect to pay around $103,456 in total for the cost of state college.

Out of this, $38,320 goes towards tuition fees and $65,136 on additional expenses such as housing, food, and other necessities. This compares to a bill of $174,884 at the end of the four years for out-of-state students. They pay an estimate of $109,748 on tuition and $65,136 on other expenses. 

(Education Data)

2. For graduates of a private non-profit university, the total cost of college amounts to a whopping $215,796.

Their tuition amounts to approximately $148,800 while they spend about $66,996 on related goods and services. For attendees of a for-profit institution, the average total cost of 4 year college is $138,192. They spend $53,900 in fees and $84,292 on other necessary purchases.

(Education Data)

3. The cost of college education for students attending an in-state school for two years is $32,074 in total.

They pay just $6,744 for fees and $25,330 for other expenses. Those that go to a two-year private non-profit institution, graduate with an average total bill of $69,112. They pay about $34,588 on tuition and their adjacent costs are $34,524. For-profit colleges charge, on average, $31,948 for two years of tuition fees and students attending those spend around $27,968 on the rest of their necessities, amounting to a total cost of $59,916.

(Education Data)

Private vs. Public College Facts

4. The average cost of private college is around $50,900 in total.

Out of that, $34,740 is spent on tuition. Students of private universities pay about $12,210 for room and board, $1,220 on books and supplies, $1,030 on transportation, and $1,700 on miscellaneous expenses.


5. Out-of-state public institutions cost around $40,940 in total for a four-year program.

Public colleges have the reputation of being cheaper than the cost of a private college, but how much can students really save? The tuition price tag at a public college stands at $25,620, with other expenses on top of that. Students who pick the in-state route meanwhile will pay $25,290 on average to cover the full costs of attending a four-year program.


6. Unsurprisingly, the average cost of community college is lower than the cost of 4-year college education.

Public community colleges cost $4,864 (in-state) and $8,622 (out-of-state) per year. However, the amount students in America spend on higher education is still very high, with student loan stats showing that borrowers spend approximately 20 years paying off their debt. Taking into account the interest and income loss they face, the ultimate cost for a bachelor’s graduate may even go above $400,000


Average Cost of College Per Year Stats

7. In the United States, the average yearly college cost for in-state university students is $25,864.

Meanwhile, the median price of in-state tuition is $9,580 per year, and the additional expenses a student should expect to have to support themselves are around $16,284. Out-of-state tuition averages $27,437, with estimated $16,284 additional expenses needed, totaling $43,721.

(Education Data)

8. Nonprofit university students spend $53,949 as their average yearly cost of college.

As much as $37,200 from the total per-year amount goes to tuition and other fees. The remaining $16,749 meanwhile goes to cover related costs. For-profit college attendees pay an average of $34,548 per year in total. Out of that, $13,475 goes to annual college fees, and $21,073 is allocated for the rest.

(Education Data)

Stats on How to Lower the Average Cost of a Four Year College 

9. Around 66% of students apply to the federal financial aid program.

Undergraduates eligible for federal work-study earn about $1,794 per year, on average. Moreover, 18% of students gain income through work-study. Financial aid consists of grants and scholarship programs designed to help students with good results in school and sports. Students with disadvantaged personal situations who show extraordinarily academic results may also be favored. As such, the average cost of college tuition can be reduced drastically.

(Education Data,  Federal Student Aid)

10. About 60% of students receive scholarships, with an average award of $7,923.

Those who score a GPA of 4.0 or higher get the chance of getting a scholarship and sidestep some college costs, but other students may also benefit from them in special circumstances. Each school may have different rules on them. But how much does it really help? Besides covering the tuition costs, the aid may also be spent on other necessities, within reason. Students that have the opportunity for one should, as the average cost of college after scholarships are significantly lower, if not even zero.

(Education Data)

11. Approximately 10% of high school students participate in dual enrollment courses.

These programs allow high-school students to participate in classes at institutions such as community colleges. Also referred to as early college, this type of program is a great way to earn some extra credits for free or very cheap. These will then count to the requirements for the future college curriculum while at the same time also allow high schoolers to finish their current education. It can be challenging to study in this rhythm, however, it’s a great way to reduce the average cost of a semester of college, since you won’t be paying for as many classes.


12. In 2018-2019, over eight million students enrolled in community college.

One often-overlooked way of getting a higher education is through a 2-year program in a community college, maybe even in your hometown. Many students falsely believe their careers will suffer if they do not complete the full four years in university. The truth, however, is that employers rarely care and the money saved due to the lower cost of community college is not something to pass up on easily. College students can take valuable credits for a fraction of what they would have spent otherwise.


13. The average cost of online college tuition ranges from $38,496 to $60,593.

Over the past few decades, online college classes have also been growing in popularity. It doesn’t just offer a cheaper alternative to traditional higher education, but it’s also more flexible and convenient.

Besides the cost of online college tuition being lower, a ton of other expenses can also be avoided. Some students may even choose to keep living with their parents and have basically zero accommodation costs. Another huge advantage of online college is that due to its flexibility, students may have an easier time working while also completing their education.

(U.S. News)

Average Cost of Books for College Statistics

14. The cost of college textbooks can add up to over $1,000 a year. 

College textbooks are infamous for burdening down students, not only literally, but also in price. Many students have also complained that besides paying a lot of money, they didn’t even use some of the textbooks at all. Still, a study done by US PIRG found that 94% of students who didn’t have the textbook required for a class felt their academic progress was impacted negatively. The average cost of college textbooks is estimated to be around $1,200 per year. 

(Cappex, U.S. PIRG)

15. Over two-thirds (67%) of students choose to buy old books instead of paying the high fees for new ones.

While this might not always be an option since some classes require supplemental materials that will only come with a new book, most of the time it is a viable alternative. Besides, your chances of finding a book that still is in good shape are fairly high. If some notes and scribbles here and there are not distracting, this option can be a significant cost saver. To top it all off, at the end of the semester, you can then resell it yourself, and recoup some of your money, lowering your average cost of college books significantly.


16. Over half of students rent textbooks. 

Renting or sharing books is another great alternative students use to save on costs. Studies show that 55% of all students rent textbooks. Sharing is also widely popular, so, if you have a friend taking the same classes as you, splitting the cost of a book in two is a good alternative. If you can manage it, you could even split it with multiple people, and bring your average cost of college textbooks per semester lower.


17. Digital books can more than halve textbook costs.  

Digital books are another new and creative way students are saving money. Textbook companies do offer, most of the time, a digital alternative. This is great news for students since the cost of physical books is always higher. For example, a new copy of the 11th edition of Campbell Biology costs over $200, while its digital counterpart can be obtained for as little as $55.

(U.S. News)

Additional Major Student Expenses Statistics

18. The average cost of college student health insurance is estimated to be somewhere in the $1,500-$2,500 range per year.

Most students don’t want to hear a word about health insurance. Colleges, however, typically require enrollment in a student health insurance plan if they are not already insured elsewhere. However, 8.7% of students in 2016 still lacked coverage, exposing them to enormous potential financial hardship due to the exorbitant costs of healthcare in the US.


19. Attendees of a 4-year institution pay anywhere ranging from $10,216 to $11,945 to cover room and board costs.

One cost that students can hardly avoid is housing since most are not attending college in their hometown or even home state. Food is another significant daily expense.  Students who live on campus spend around $11,451 annually while the average cost of college room and board for those who stay off-campus is $10,781.

(Education Data)

20. Students spend $11,620 on room and board at public four-year institutions on average.

This doesn’t tell us the full story though, as, depending on where you attend, these costs may go up or down drastically. For example, students at the University of California, Berkeley, pay approximately $19,620 yearly, which is almost double the national average. On the other hand, Northwestern Oklahoma State University attendees have to pay significantly lower, $4,950 per year. This is half the average cost of room and board for college in America.

(The Scholarship System)

Stats on the Historic Cost of College

21. The price for higher education has grown by 3,009% over the last 50 years.

While inflation naturally accounts for part of this surge, data shows that since 1970, the total inflation has been only 591.38%, meaning that the truth still stands: the cost of college over time is skyrocketing. 

(InflationTool, Yahoo)

22. The average cost of college in 1970 was $405 per year for four-year public institutions.

The actual numbers pointing to the growth of the cost of college tuition over time are extraordinary, showing it cost $1,792 to attend a private establishment in the 1970s. Over the next decade, it grew to $800 and $3,620 for public and private education, respectively. In 1990, students paid $1,910 on average per year to attend public universities and $9,340 for private ones. By 2000, the costs had climbed to $3,510 and $16,070. The following decade, the prices grew to $7,630 and $26,770.


Average College Expenses by State

23. For the 2019-2020 academic year, statistics place the average cost of college in California at $3,736 for in-state and $19,272 for out-of-state.

Unsurprisingly, the cost in California is higher than the national average. Glendale Career College has been dubbed as the most expensive, requiring a total of $71,838 for fees. At the other end of the spectrum, the ABC Adult School costs only $700.

(College Tuition Compare)

24. Infamous for its high costs of living, New York City also requires a hefty price for college.

NYU estimates the total costs of attendance for alumni of 2020 at $76,614, out of which $53,310 were spent on tuition and fees, $18,684 for room and board, $752 on books, $1,110 for transit, $2,758 for personal expenses, and $4,620 on miscellaneous purchases.


25. The average cost of college in Texas is just over $16,000.

The median in-state yearly cost of college in Texas for tuition was about $16,319 for the 2019-2020 academic year. Midwestern State University Wichita Falls meanwhile has been dubbed as the most affordable college in the state.

(CollegeCalc, Affordable Schools)

26. The average cost of college in Florida is just over $6,000 if you’re from the Sunshine State.

College tuition on average in 2020 was $6,179 for state residents and $23,861 for students from a different state. The most expensive is the University of Miami ($51,930) and the cheapest is the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee ($16,502) when we consider the average total cost of college.

(College Tuition Compare)

27. The cost of college in Michigan is among the lowest in the country.

To attend the Ann Arbor University of Michigan, the estimated fees for students in 2020 were $15,558 for in-state freshmen and sophomores and $17,522 for juniors and seniors. Also, out-of-state students paid about $51,200 and $54,794, respectively. 


Stats on the Average College Costs Abroad

28. Canadians pay about $5,100 a year on college education. 

As a multicultural and diverse country like the US, Canada is highly attractive for students from all around the globe and fetches lower tuition fees than the average cost of college in America. The cost of college in Canada is an average of C$6,463 ($5,139) for undergraduate degrees per year. International students should expect a yearly bill of C$29,714 (~$22,500).


29. Thе cost of college in Germany is zero for locals and in most cases, for international students.

It might be shocking for someone from the US, but the average cost of a college education for most of the Universities in Germany is actually zero. You read that right. Since 2016, the majority of German universities have abolished fees for higher learning. Besides some small administrative spending and living expenses, the cost of free college stands. 

Since 2016, however, some establishments (albeit not all) reintroduced fees for internationals. For example, non-EU attendees of Baden-Württemberg must now pay €3,000 (~$3,500) per year in tuition fees, which is still a bargain compared to the average cost of college in the States.


30. The cost of college in France is also zero in most cases.

As a member of the EU and the European Economic Area, France offers the option to attend college for free to students that come from other members of these political and economic unions. However, if you are an international student, you must pay tuition fees. International students in France will have to fork out €2,770 ($3.356) per year in tuition fees.


31. The cost of college in Japan is also lower than the average cost of college in the US.

Japan is known to offer some of the highest standards of education in the world. Compared to their American counterparts, Japanese students have it easy, having to pay ¥535,800 (or $6,500) per year.

(International Student Insurance)

32. Australia has over 624,000 international students and counting.

While there’s a lot to look forward to if you go to study Down Under, the cost of college in Australia is quite high, with estimates suggesting that a student must pay about A$20,290 (~$14,600) per year on living costs and AU$30,840 (~$22,170) on tuition. This would put the average cost of a college degree obtained in Australia at a minimum of $169,840.


33. Students looking for a better deal on the cost of college tuition than in the US may want to look somewhere different than Ireland.

While a little cheaper, the cost of college in Ireland is still higher than in most places in Europe. As such, it costs approximately between $9,915 and $13,145 to study for a year at Trinity College Dublin. The University College Cork charges around $7,320-$28,550, depending on the area for those studying abroad.

(Master Portal)

The Bottom Line 

The average cost of college and university is on the rise, which puts a lot of pressure on students and their families. That said, there are ways to reduce those costs with careful planning and possibly, exploring some overseas studying options.

References: Education Data, ValuePenguin, Education Data, Federal Student Aid, NACEP, CCRC, U.S. News, Cappex; U.S. PIRG, PRNewswire, Back2BU, U.S. News, BestColleges, The Scholarship System, InflationTool, Yahoo, College Tuition Compare, CNBC, CollegeCalc, Affordable Schools, College Tuition Compare, CNBC, TopUniversities, TopUniversities, Study.eu, International Student Insurance, TopUniversities, Master Portal

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