As of 2014, there are more than 4500 colleges within the United States with wildly varying college degree costs. Because of this, the average cost of getting a college degree is highly dependent on the individual college, choice of major, and whether tuition is in-state or out-of-state; this difference in expenses can be quite large, ranging from $0 to upwards of $65,000 per year. Additionally, there are a variety of fees that many don’t consider when shopping for colleges, from room and board, to books, food and transportation. For this reason, it is essential to do research prior to choosing a college.

Average Yearly Tuition Costs

One of the biggest factors in calculating the average cost of a college degree is whether the school is a public or private institution. In the 2010-2011 school year, the national center for education statistics (NCES) calculated the average yearly public not-for-profit education institution’s cost at $13,600; this calculation included fees such as: room and board, books and transportation. The average cost for a private not-for-profit education institution was around $36,000 with the same expenses attached. For more information on average college education prices, visit the Nation Center for Education Statistics .

Tuition and Fees: Factoring Expenses

Because there are a variety of fees associated with going to college, especially a college out of one’s state, it is essential to do the math before deciding on any particular institution. The primary college degree cost will be tuition with additional expenses for transportation, books and room and board, if applicable.


While tuition is a large factor, isn’t the only factor when considering the college degree cost. The tuition costs of most education institutions are calculated by means of credit-hours, meaning that the cost is dependent on the amount of classes and program one enrolls in. Because of this, it is essential to do research on the cost of the particular major which one intends to pursue; science and engineering programs typically cost the most.

The biggest tuition rate factor is whether one qualifies for in-state tuition. Typically, the cost of in-state tuition for a moderately priced college is around half the cost out-of-state tuition; however, the cost of books, room and board, and transportation are not typically affected.

Room and Board

Like tuition, the cost of room and board can vary depending on the housing plan chosen and the college one chooses. Most colleges offer dorm or apartment style housing plans; the apartment style housing plans typically cost much more. In the 2013-2014 school year, the average housing plan cost for 4-year colleges was $9,500 for public and close to $11,000 for private.

Another factor to consider is food, which is typically separate from the housing plan. For those who plan to eat outside of campus, the costs can be higher. For those who have the option to live at home while in school, it can be much cheaper.

Books, Supplies and Transportation

For almost every class, books and supplies are essential. Because of this, they cannot be ignored. Typically, the yearly cost for books ranges from $1,000 to $1,800, with extraneous supplies costing an extra $100 or more.

For those who choose to live off-campus, or have a car on-campus, transportation costs should be factored in. These costs can vary drastically depending on the habits of the student and the distance from the institution.

Personal Expenses

Every individual has different habits, entertainment preferences, and needs. Because of this, it is essential to factor in expenses such as clothing, personal hygiene products and entertainment.

Because of all of these factors, calculating tuition can be a much more in-depth process than commonly assumed. While factoring all of these expenses may be a long process, it is necessary in order to discover the actual college degree cost, which, through comparison, can dramatically help one find the perfect college for their needs.

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