Regional College Access Center

How much does college cost?

Amy says: My school isn't too expensive, because I chose to go to a state school where I get an in-state tuition rate. But some of my friends have had to take out loans and apply for financial aid.

One girl told me her tuition was almost $40,000 a year—before buying books and a meal plan! Fortunately, she got a good financial aid package. Schools base these awards on your grades, your family income and other factors.

$tress headaches

Nobody wants to worry about money. But with college costs rising, most of us can't afford not to consider both the cost and the value of higher education. Keep in mind that the numbers on this page are just a guide, and that few students end up paying the full "sticker price" for school. Financial aid of various types can bring your goals within reach, and we'll cover how to make that happen elsewhere in this section of the site.

How much is tuition?

The best way to find the tuition for the schools you're interested in is to check their websites or call their financial aid offices. If you want to do some fast investigating, try CNN Money's college costs search tool, which gives you the tuition, room and board and miscellaneous fees for most 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S.

The price of tuition varies by school, but there are some trends among different types of schools:

Average Tuition Costs by Type of School

Type of school Public 2-year commuter school Public 4-year campus school
(in-state tuition)
Public 4-year campus school
(out-of-state tuition)
Private nonprofit campus school
Examples Community colleges The University of Arizona, Temple University, The University of California at Berkeley The University of Arizona, Temple University, The University of California at Berkeley Harvard University, Oberlin College, The University of Chicago
Average tuition
and fees
$2,713 $7,605 $19,595 $27,293

Source: Baum, S. & Ma, J. (2010). Trends in College Pricing 2010. College Board Advocacy and Policy Center.

Beyond tuition

Tuition is the biggest single expense for most college students, but it's not the only one. You'll also need to factor in many other common expenses:

Like tuition, these costs can vary widely based on your school and your personal situation. For example, if you're going to school in your hometown, you might be saving big on room and board by living at home! The chart to the right shows how tuition and these additional expenses stack up at different types of schools.

Most schools estimate these costs for you on their websites, and that's a good place to start thinking about the overall total cost of attending college. To find this kind of information, look for links that say things like "Admissions," "Future Students," or "Cost Calculator." If you can't find what you're looking for, don't be afraid to call financial aid offices with questions. That's what they are there for.