What Does It Cost: College

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The average cost of a college education in the United States is gulp-worthy: ​$35,270​ ​a year​ in 2021, according to the research team, EducationData. Are you doomed to debt if you want to continue your education? Maybe not, because you have numerous cost-cutting options.


Four-Year Public Schools

You'll catch a financial break if you attend college in your state of residence. EducationData notes that attending a state college slices about $10,000 off that average price of $35,270, tagging this option at ​$25,615 a year​. That number isn't just tuition. It includes fees and other necessities as well. Tuition alone takes up about ​$9,580​. It hikes up to ​$27,437​ for an out-of-state school, or about ​$43,271​ overall.


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Paying for tuition alone simply allows you to attend classes. Numerous other fees are attached to this base bill, such as if you want to play sports or visit the medical clinic on campus. And that's not even taking into account room and board if you're not going to live at home.

Four-Year Private Universities

The numbers more or less double if you have your heart set on a private university: ​$53,949​ overall on average, with ​$37,200​ of that going to just tuition and fees.


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Community Colleges

You might have a two-year community college nearby, and this option will also slash your costs. Some students begin their educations at this kind of institution, then transfer credits earned to a larger institution to finish their second two years there. Tuition alone could run you as little as ​$3,372 a year​ at one of these schools, up to ​$16,037​ when other costs are rolled in. These numbers can double or even triple, however, if the school is a private institution.


Online Colleges

Attending school online is another option to reduce your college costs. Some schools offer in-state tuition to online students even if you actually live elsewhere. The trend toward online learning has increased significantly since 2010. Roughly ​2,500 U.S. colleges​ offer some type of online learning program. In most cases, you'll follow the same curriculum as you would if you attended in person.

About Those "Extras"

All these numbers focus entirely on tuition and fees. Numerous other costs can add to your annual bill. Plan on spending about ​$1,300 a year​ on books and other supplies and equipment. This expense runs about the same whether you attend school in state or elsewhere, at either a public or private institution. But some programs of study, such as the sciences, can run more.


And you'll really have to bite the bullet if you want to live on campus. Room and board will cost from ​$11,000 to $12,000 a year​, depending on whether you're attending a public or private school.

Consider also:Types of Financial Aid for College

Cost-Saving Measures

You'll almost certainly spend less on college if you attend a two-year, public school in state rather than opting for a four-year degree at a university across state lines, or if you attend that out-of-state school online.


And don't overlook used textbooks that can cut that books-and-supplies cost down somewhat. There are numerous used book sellers available online, and some big chains like Amazon and Costco offer discounts on new textbooks to students as well.

Earning Advanced Placement (AP) credits while you're still in high school can help you save as well. An AP program can run from $200 to $400 per course if you qualify, which is often significantly less than what you would pay at the college level. The credits earned in AP classes carry over to college.


And there might be something to be said for that hefty private university price tag, particularly if you're considering the likes of Harvard or Yale. A degree from a prestigious university will almost certainly nudge a few doors open when you're job hunting after graduation. But this might not be a consideration if you believe you can sell yourself and what you can offer to an employer regardless of where you got your degree.

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