What Does A Year Of College Really Cost?

What does it really cost to go to college? That simple question often defies an easy answer and generates a lot of anxiety because of inconsistencies and confusion in the way college prices are presented to the public. And in some cases, the confusion – or alarm – is stirred by pundits who cite only the “sticker price” of college even though they know that’s a price that the majority of students do not actually pay.

Now, with the release of the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020, students and families have a source they can use to determine the average annual costs of attending a two-year college, a four-year public university, or a private, not-for-profit four year institution. Of course, the figures are only averages, sure to vary from college to college, and they suffer the inevitable limitations when national data bases are combined, but they still provide important benchmarks for comparison purposes.

Trends distinguishes between “published price” which is the price institutions charge for tuition and fees as well as room and board (for students living on campus) and “net price” which is what students and/or their families must pay after all financial aid is subtracted from the published price. In addition, the full cost of attendance also includes the annual amount that students pay for books and course materials, supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses.

Here’s a summary of net costs of attendance for three sectors of higher education.

Public Two-Year Colleges

In 2020-21, the average annual net cost for first-time, full-time, in-district undergraduates at a public two-year college was $14,560, $20 less than the average in 2019-20.

The published sticker price for a year’s cost of attendance was $18,550, but the average student received $3,990 in financial aid, resulting in a final average price of $8,860 in tuition and fees and room and board plus $5,700 in books and supplies, transportation and other personal expenses.

Among all first-time, full-time students in this sector, 71% received financial aid grants.

Public Four-Year Colleges

In 2020-21, the average net cost for first-time, full-time, in-state students at public four-year colleges was $19,490, $30 dollars less than the average in 2019-20.

The published sticker price for a year of attendance was $26,820, but on average students received $7,330 in aid, so the final average price they faced was $14,850 in tuition and fees and room and board, in addition to $4,640 in books and supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses.

In 2018-19, the last year for which adequate data were available, 74% of first-time, full-time undergraduates received financial aid grants, and 49% of the total aid they received came from college and universities themselves.

Not-For-Profit Four-Year Colleges

In 2020-21, the average net cost for first-time, full-time undergraduates attending nonprofit, private four-year colleges was $33,220, $370 dollars more than the average in 2019-20.

The published sticker price for a year of attendance was $54,880, but on average students received $21,660 in aid, so the final average price they faced was $29,110 in tuition and fees and room and board, in addition to $4,110 in books and supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses.

In 2018-19, 87% of first-time, full-time undergraduates in this sector received financial aid grants, and 86% of the total aid they received came from college and universities themselves.

____________

In prior years, the College Board published two annual reports summarizing the costs of college – one on pricing and one on financial aid. This year, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020 combines the two into this single report. Summary data about enrollment trends, types of student financial aid, Pell grants, student borrowing and student debt are also included.

Source Article