How Much Does College Really Cost?

College Cost Breakdown: The five elements to take into account when creating your Budget.

How Much Does College Really Cost?

For most students and their families, paying for College is a major financial move. Therefore it is very important to properly add up all the different elements that constitute the Universities’ Cost of Attendance, tuition is just the starting point when calculating your budget.

College cost can be divided into five main categories. While these costs can be controlled by you to a point, it would be good before sitting down and setting a budget to go over costs, understand them and figure out how much can you afford:

  1. Tuition: Tuition and fees are the prices you pay for taking classes at your college. This amount can change based on your academic program, the number of credit hours you take and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. Some colleges charge “comprehensive fees” — the total for tuition, fees, and room and board combined.
  2. Room and Board: Colleges usually offer a variety of dorm-room options and meal plans to students who live on campus. The charges vary depending on what plan you choose. If you decide to live at home or off-campus, you’ll have your own rent and meal costs to consider in your college costs
  3. Books: You’ll need books and other course materials. The yearly books-and-supplies in-state estimate for the average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public college is about $1,298. You may be able to lower these costs by buying used textbooks or renting them.
  4. Personal Expenses: These include laundry, cell phone bills, eating out and anything else you normally spend money on. Figure out what you spend and add that amount to your budget.
  5. Transportation: Whether you commute to campus or take the occasional trip home, you’ll have transportation costs. Of course, these will vary depending on how you travel and how often. You may be able to find student discounts on travel costs. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas if you own a car.


Average Tuition & Fees, 2022
Public two-year colleges Public four-year colleges (in-state fees) Public four-year colleges (out-of-state fees) Private non-profit four-year colleges
Tuition and other fees   $3,501   $10,423   $22,953   $39,723


When transport and other living expenses are factored in, College Board estimates the following cost of attendance for undergraduate students in 2022:

$17,580 (community college)

$25,290 (in-state students at a four-year public college)

$40,940 (out-of-state students at a four-year public college)

$50,900 (private non-profit four-year college)


NOTE: You will find the term cost of attendance when reading about costs. This term refers to the addition of the five previous discussed categories.