College Costs: FAQs

Find the right college for you.

College may seem expensive. In reality, though, it’s often more affordable than you think. The costs depend on what college you go to and how much financial aid you receive.


How much is tuition?

Tuition is the price colleges charge for classes. Students also pay other fees related to enrolling in and attending a college. The cost of tuition and fees varies by college.

There is a wide range of prices, as the table below shows. But you should know that half of all full-time undergraduate students at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges attend institutions that charge tuition and fees of $11,814 or less.

Type of College Average Published Yearly Tuition and Fees
Public Two-Year College (in-district students) $3,440
Public Four-Year College (in-state students) $9,410
Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students) $23,890
Private Four-Year College $32,410

These numbers are based on published tuition costs, not what students actually end up paying out of their own pockets. There can be a big difference between those two numbers, thanks to financial aid.

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What other expenses will I have?

Besides tuition and fees, students have to pay for housing, food, books and supplies. They also have to cover any additional college fees and other living expenses, such as transportation costs. Learn more about the five main categories of college costs.

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Can I get help paying for college?

Yes. Most college students receive financial aid. This is money that is given or lent to you to help pay for college costs. There are several forms of financial aid:

  • Grants and scholarships: money you do not have to repay
  • Loans: money you do have to repay
  • Work-study: a program that allows you to work part-time to earn money for college expenses

Students often use a combination of financial aid options to pay their college expenses. Read Financial Aid Can Help You Afford College to learn more. 

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What will college really cost me?

Probably less than you think. The best way to figure out what a particular college may really cost you is to find out your estimated net price for that college. This is usually far lower than the published price. Your net price for a college is the published price of tuition and fees minus your gift aid and education tax benefits. Gift aid includes grants and scholarships but not loans or money earned through a work-study job.

You can use a college’s net price calculator (most colleges have these on their websites) to get a customized estimate of your net price for that college. Learn more about estimating college costs.

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Is college worth the cost?

College has many benefits. For example, people who graduate from college earn more money and are more likely to hold a job than those who don’t graduate from college. In 2011, people with a bachelor’s degree who worked full-time earned $21,100 more, on average, than full-time workers with only a high school diploma. 

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