How Much Does College Really Cost?

The cost of college is more than just tuition.

College is a huge financial commitment, more so today than ever before. (Try not to think about inflation because it’ll just hurt.)

Learning to budget is a necessity, as many students will be responsible for their own finances for the first time.

The cost of college isn’t always apparent up front, so learning about the breakdown of college costs is a necessity. It can help you plan ahead and avoid unexpected fees and expenses.

Follow along with our 5 FAQs about the cost of college:

  1. How much is tution?
  2. What other expenses should I expect?
  3. How can I get help paying for college?
  4. How do I compare college costs?
  5. Is the cost of college worth it?

1) How much is tuition?

The cost of tuition depends on the college itself and depends on whether the college is public or private, in-state or out-of-state. There’s no way to avoid doing a little college research to understand the cost of colleges (though the Fiske Guide to Colleges breaks it down pretty well).

The best we can do is talk about averages.

The Average Cost of College:

  • Average cost of college nationwide: $23,091
  • Average cost of college in Texas (in-state): $19,602
  • Average cost of private colleges nationwide: $40,925

These numbers only include tuition, fees, and room and board.

2) What other expenses should I expect?

Other expenses include books, supplies, and transportation. (Did you know you usually have to pay to park on campus — and it isn’t cheap?)

Plus, cost of living and personal expenses. (You can’t avoid buying toothpaste and shampoo. You just can’t.)

If you’re going to be able to afford all of this, a good place to start is knowing how much things will cost. Each college’s website usually has information about typical expenses.

And you can find out how to calculate your likely cost of living here.

3) How can I get help paying for college?

The previous two FAQs painted a pretty expensive picture, but this one’s kinder.

There are a lot of sources of help to pay for college. A lot.

  • Financial Aid. The best way to start is to fill out the FAFSA.
  • Scholarships. Most colleges have lists of available scholarships online.
  • Work study jobs. These are usually part-time jobs on-campus that fit a student’s schedule.
  • Part-time jobs. Finding a part-time job with flexible hours close to campus isn’t too hard.
  • Student loans. Many loan options are out there, though federal student loans are generally better than private student loans.

More than likely, the way you pay for college will be a combination of these methods.

You fill out the FAFSA and receive a loan. Based on your application, the university gives you a partial tuition grant. You get two scholarships. You have a work study job.

4) How do I compare college costs?

Some factors make certain colleges more affordable than others.

Public universities are usually less expensive than private universities.

Your residence in a state makes universities more or less expensive; in-state tuition is lower than out-of-state tuition.

Some colleges will offer you a great financial aid package, even waiving tuition, while others won’t.

Some colleges will automatically investigate whether you’re available for scholarships through the college, while others have you fill out a separate scholarship application.

Finally, depending on your major, graduates in your field might have more career success if they’re coming from one college versus another.

You’ll have to look at all of your options to do a final comparison about which is the most affordable and advantageous college for you to attend.

5) Is the cost of college worth it?

Way beyond career preparation, college gives you intangible benefits — just one of which is the experience itself.

Despite the prevailing climate of college debt hovering around new graduates, the financial cost of college is usually worth it, too.

You should consider the projected salary for your desired career path. More than likely, a Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for entering the field.

Other financial benefits of a college degree include a higher salary (not always, but usually), more job opportunities in the form of a better chance of being hired for a job even if a degree isn’t required, and job security and satisfaction.

Some of the most important things learned in college have nothing to do with a specific major. Communication and critical thinking skills are invaluable in today’s knowledge economy.

If you’re realistic about the financial cost of college and optimistic about the benefits of a degree, you’ll discover how to pay for college with a minimum of stress and debt and a maximum of confidence.

Need help? Ask a KD Director for college resources. You can also check out our guide for “How to Save Money for College.”


Reach out to schedule your free consultation today.

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