Average Cost of College and Tuition 2024

The cost of college is the total cost of attending a college or university when all expenses are considered for tuition and living expenses such as housing and transportation.

The overall cost of college ranges from a national average of $16,090 per year at local community colleges or 2-year schools to an average of $55,840 per year at private schools.

Annual tuition cost ranges from $4,481 per year at 2-year schools to $19,806 per year at 4-year schools when public and private schools are included in the average. At those rates, the average total tuition cost is $8,962 for two years at a 2-year school to $76,344 for 4 years at a 4-year school. With grants, scholarships and other financial aid, net tuition is often considerably lower than the published price of tuition.

Tuition costs can be lowered by applying for financial aid through the FAFSA, earning college credits in other ways including AP and CLEP exams, and by taking an accelerated degree program. On the other hand, tuition costs can be increased through retaking classes, getting a double degree, and by taking extra classes that put total credits above the minimum needed for a degree.

Room and board expenses primarily include housing (room) and meals (board). The cost of room and board averages $12,111 for all 4-year schools. It is slightly higher than average for 4-year private schools and somewhat lower than average for 4-year public schools.

What is the Average Cost of College (COA)

The cost of college refers to the total cost of attendance (COA), which includes tuition and required fees, room and board, books and supplies, as well as other expenses (such as laundry, transportation, entertainment, and loan fees, etc.). 

NCES notes that the average cost of 4-year college in the United States is $36,436 per year, and for 2-year colleges, the average cost is $16,782 per year. 

Here are the average costs by specific institution type:

  • The average cost of 4-year in-state public colleges is $26,027 per year. Most college students in the United States are enrolled at in-state colleges where they live, according to the statistical report from Statista.
  • The average cost of 4-year not-for-profit private colleges is $55,840 per year. The majority of national private colleges are 4-year not-for-profit colleges.
  • The average cost of in-district community college is $16,090 per year.

The above data assumes students live on campus.

The net cost of college, or net COA, is the total amount it will cost a student per year to go to school when all related expenses minus financial aid are factored.

  • Net COA of 2-year public college per year for in-district students: $15,540
  • Net COA of 4-year public college per year for in-state students: $20,310
  • Net COA of All 4-year schools per year for in-state and out-of-state students at public and private schools: $34,790.

The cost of attendance for college includes 4 components:

  • Tuition: The amount of money college students are required to pay for academic instruction. Many schools now offer a flat fee per semester or year, while a few schools charge students per credit hour. The average cost of tuition at 4-year institutions is $19,806.
  • Room and Board: The cost of housing and meals (board) for college students who live on campus or off campus. At 4-year institutions, the average cost of room and board for college students living on campus is $12,111 per year.
  • Books and Supplies: Course materials such as textbooks, online materials, textbook rentals, and other supplies such as a PC used for study. At 4-year institutions, the average cost of Books and Supplies is $1,215 per year.
  • Other Expenses: The amount of money needed by a college student to cover loan fees and expenses such as laundry, transportation, entertainment, furnishings, and study abroad per year. At 4-year institutions, college students spend an average of $3,304 on other expenses.

The total cost required to complete a degree can be approximately determined by multiplying the annual net COA by 2 years for an associate’s degree and 4 years for a bachelor’s degree. The average degree costs then are $31,080 for an associate’s degree for in-district students, $81,240 for a bachelor’s degree at an in-state college and $139,160 when all 4-year public and private schools are considered. 

The Student Aid office clarifies that the net price of college is the net COA minus any grants or scholarships the student receives.

Average Cost of College

What Is the Average College Tuition?

The average cost of tuition is the published price of an institution’s education cost. It refers strictly to the cost of classes plus fees and is also known as the sticker price.

The average college tuition is $19,806 per year for 4-year institutions when public and private schools are considered. This means that tuition averages $9,543 per semester and at current prices $76,344 for 4 years.

The average annual tuition at 2-year schools is $4,481 or $2,240 per semester and a total of $8,962 for 2 years.

Breaking down the tuition data shows that:

The average tuition is $9,678 per year for in-state students at public 4-year schools. At current pricing, that’s an average of $38,712 for a 4-year degree and $4,839 per semester of education.

The average tuition at private not-for-profit 4-year schools is $38,768 or $155,072 for a 4-year degree, which is exactly 400% more than the cost of a public school education for in-state students. Cost per semester at private schools is $19,384.

Average tuition cost at in-state 2-year community colleges is $3,970, which is $1,985 per semester and $7,940 for 2 years.

The average price per credit varies greatly based on the type of school and whether the school has flat fee per semester pricing. The list price per credit hour before financial aid is factored in ranges from $132 at in-district community colleges, $323 at in-state public 4-year schools, to an average of $1,292 for students taking 15 credit hours paying the published price at a private school.

Tuition is the amount of money it takes to pay for education at a college or university. It is commonly called tuition and fees. Tuition generally covers the cost of academic instruction such as faculty salaries and facilities, student services such as guidance counseling, and the technology made available to students to facilitate their education.

Net tuition is the cost of tuition minus the amount of grants, scholarships and other forms of financial aid received by the student. Most students pay a net tuition cost that is significantly lower than the full cost of tuition and fees.

  • The average net tuition for in-district students at public two-year colleges is -$330 per year, which means that grant aid per student more than covers tuition and fees. For most students, attending a community college in the district in which they live is free.
  • Average net tuition is $2,730 per year for in-state students enrolled in public four-year institutions. That breaks down to $1,365 per semester and a total of $10,920 over 4 years at current pricing.
  • Students at private 4-year not-for-profit schools pay an average tuition of $15,910 per year, or $7,955 per semester and $63,640 for 4 years of education at current prices.

The average tuition and net tuition prices above are for first-time, full-time students, according to the College Board.

What Are the Colleges with the Highest Average Tuition?

This table shows the top 50 U.S. colleges with the highest tuition costs.

NameTypesTuition and Fees
Columbia University in the City of New YorkNational Universities$63,530
Franklin and Marshall CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$63,406
Kenyon CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$63,310
Tufts UniversityNational Universities$63,000
Vassar CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$62,870
Reed CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$62,730
Brown UniversityNational Universities$62,304
University of ChicagoNational Universities$62,241
Colorado CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$62,070
Wesleyan UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges$62,049
Colgate UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,966
University of PennsylvaniaNational Universities$61,710
Boston CollegeNational Universities$61,706
Union CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,659
University of Southern CaliforniaNational Universities$61,503
Trinity CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,370
Colby CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,220
Haverford CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,210
Amherst CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$61,160
Cornell UniversityNational Universities$61,015
Dartmouth CollegeNational Universities$60,870
Tulane University of LouisianaNational Universities$60,814
Connecticut CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,795
Northwestern UniversityNational Universities$60,768
Wellesley CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,752
Harvey Mudd CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,703
Macalester CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,518
Brandeis UniversityNational Universities$60,391
Skidmore CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,302
Duke UniversityNational Universities$60,244
Oberlin CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,240
Hobart William Smith CollegesNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,240
Southern Methodist UniversityNational Universities$60,236
Carleton CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,225
St Lawrence UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges$60,220
Hamilton CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,970
Gettysburg CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,960
Georgetown UniversityNational Universities$59,957
Yale UniversityNational Universities$59,950
George Washington UniversityNational Universities$59,870
Boston UniversityNational Universities$59,816
Bucknell UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,802
Middlebury CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,770
Wake Forest UniversityNational Universities$59,770
Pepperdine UniversityNational Universities$59,702
Barnard CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,687
Williams CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,660
Bennington CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,638
Sarah Lawrence CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,470
Washington and Lee UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges$59,380
The data(2022-2023) is based on college navigator (NCES), we only choose 4-year national colleges and national liberal arts colleges.

The costs listed in the table are the published tuition costs, also called the sticker price. However, many students at these institutions receive financial aid, so that the net tuition cost of the schools is significantly lower than the published cost.

Columbia University in NYC is the most expensive college in the country among national universities. Three other universities, Franklin and Marshall, Kenyon College, and Tufts University have tuition costs above $63,000.

The 4-year colleges with the highest average tuition cost more than $59,000 per year. These are national colleges and national liberal arts colleges, meaning that they draw students from around the US and many international students too.

Most of the colleges with the highest tuition costs are private schools. Six of the most expensive colleges in the U.S. are Ivy League colleges – Columbia, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale. They are all private schools.

What Are Good Colleges with the Lowest Average Tuition?

Tuition cost is not a reliable indicator of the quality of the education a school provides. This table shows good colleges with low average tuition costs.

NameCollege TypesUSNew Ranking for Each TypeTuition and Fees
Brigham Young UniversityNational Universities89$6,120
Tougaloo CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges151$11,398
Central Michigan UniversityNational Universities250$13,200
William Carey UniversityNational Universities317$14,100
Southern Illinois University-CarbondaleNational Universities263$15,240
Houghton UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges130$16,446
Gallaudet UniversityNational Universities127$17,712
Regent UniversityNational Universities299$18,820
Central CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges145$19,250
Birmingham-Southern CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges111$20,100
Mississippi CollegeNational Universities317$20,364
Touro UniversityNational Universities182$20,750
Keiser University-Ft LauderdaleNational Universities219$22,000
Harding UniversityNational Universities263$22,230
Fisk UniversityNational Liberal Arts Colleges151$22,906
Lincoln Memorial UniversityNational Universities299$24,210
Oakland City UniversityNational Universities263$25,740
Thomas Aquinas CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges45$26,000
Gordon CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges151$26,250
Maryville University of Saint LouisNational Universities234$27,166
Randolph CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges124$27,212
Immaculata UniversityNational Universities250$27,750
Concordia College at MoorheadNational Liberal Arts Colleges145$28,016
Spelman CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges51$28,181
The Master’s University and SeminaryNational Universities299$28,870
Howard UniversityNational Universities89$28,916
Hampton UniversityNational Universities219$29,312
Morehouse CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges124$29,468
Hillsdale CollegeNational Liberal Arts Colleges48$30,042
The data (2022-2023) is based on college navigator (NCES), we colleged all the college’s data and ordered by the tuition and fee. We only choose 4-year national colleges and national liberal arts colleges. 

Brigham Young University is the most affordable national university with high ratings. It is one of many religious schools on the list including the Master’s College, William Carey University, Thomas Aquinas College, Tougaloo College, Touro University, Birmingham Southern and Gordon College.

Tougaloo is also one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) on the list along with Spelman, Howard, and Fisk.  

Many of the best colleges with the lowest average tuition are private but able to offer competitive tuition because they are heavily funded by donations from individuals and organizations. Hillsdale College is an example along with many of the religious schools.

Central Michigan University is the top-rated public university with tuition among the lowest of all schools. It is one of few public universities on the list along with Southern Illinois-Carbondale.

What Is the Average Cost for Room and Board for College?

The cost of college room and board is the price for housing and meals. Room refers to housing, and board refers to meals. When room and board includes on-campus housing and meals, items like security and some student services are also typically considered part of room and board.

Here are the average cost of room and board for college by college type and whether it is a 2-year or 4-year school.

  • The average cost of room and board for all 4 year institutions is $12,111.
  • The average cost of room and board for all 4 year public institutions is $11,520.
  • The average cost of room and board for all 4 year private not-for-profit institutions is $13,028.
  • The average cost of room and board for all 2 year institutions is $7,303.
  • The average cost of room and board for all 2 year public institutions and community colleges is $7,063.

Most colleges offer options that affect an individual’s cost for room and board. For housing, options include single or double rooms or a suite. For meals, meal plans vary depending on the number of meals per week and dining choices.

What Is the Average Cost of Books and Supplies?

College books and supplies cost encompasses all traditional textbooks required for classes, lab manuals, workbooks, articles for supplemental reading, computers, calculators and other technical equipment, art supplies, sheet music and other printed and digital materials necessary to complete classwork. Items for manual note taking such as notepads and pens are also considered supplies.

The average cost of books and supplies for all 4 year institutions is $1,215. The average at 2 year institutions is higher at $1,436.

What Is the Average College Cost by State?

This table lists the average cost of college for all 50 states, based on the Digest of Education Statistics of NCES. It compares average costs of college for in-state students at public schools with students at private schools.

Statesin-state public 4 years collegesprivate 4 years colleges
District of ColumbiaN/A$61,912
New Hampshire$29,222$29,103
New Jersey$28,335$52,442
New Mexico$17,113$36,770
New York$24,231$58,423
North Carolina$17,779$49,893
North Dakota$18,057$24,624
Rhode Island$26,946$61,692
South Carolina$23,181$37,629
South Dakota$17,177$35,229
West Virginia$19,312$22,303

This table shows the total cost of college for each state. This cost is also known as the cost of attendance or COA and includes the total cost of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses required to attend college.

Private schools are more expensive in all states except Arizona where the cost of attending private college is the second lowest in the nation behind West Virginia, and in New Hampshire.

The lowest average difference in total college cost between public college and private college is in Delaware where private schools cost 3.5% more.

The greatest average difference in total cost of attendance between public and private colleges is in Louisiana where private colleges average 177% more expensive. In California, private colleges are 124% more expensive, and in Texas, they are 172% more expensive. In Massachusetts, where the average cost to attend private schools is highest, private schools are 132% more expensive.

What Is the Average College Tuition by State?

This tuition by state table shows the average cost of tuition at public colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Private institutions are not part of the table. And it compares the average cost of tuition at public 4-year schools vs public 2-year schools. The data is according to the Digest of Education Statistics of NCES.

Tuition by State

StatesTuition of public 4 year in-state colleges Tuition of 2 year public college in-state tuition
District of Columbia6,15211,028
New Hampshire16,7499,002
New Jersey14,1848,196
New Mexico7,3937,039
New York8,4169,457
North Carolina7,2606,846
North Dakota9,0653,470
Rhode Island13,6979,419
South Carolina12,5445,197
South Dakota9,0124,131
West Virginia8,2524,715
Tuition costs include tuition and fees, costs specifically for education and not for education-related expenses.

Tuition for all public colleges and universities is highest in states of the northeast including Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. Public school tuition is most affordable in states with smaller populations or are located in the south including Florida, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

In 86% of states, annual tuition at 4-year schools is higher than tuition at 2-year colleges. California, Nevada, New York, New Mexico and Georgia are among the states where community college tuition is comparable or less than tuition at 4-year schools in the state.

The national average tuition rate for 4-year schools is $9,996 per year, and the average tuition for 2-year schools is $6,434 per year. States with tuition rates lower than the national average include Florida, Texas, California, and Utah. Average tuition rates are significantly higher than the national average in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, South Carolina, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Michigan.

What Can Help Lower Tuition and College Cost?

There are many ways to lower tuition and the cost of attending college.

Before starting college, you can earn college credits that reduce the number you will have to take once enrolled. For example, taking and passing AP exams and CLEP exams earn college credits and cost less than tuition for most classes.

Apply for grants to lower the net tuition cost. A good first step is to fill out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is required for financial aid such as Pell Grants and FSEOG supplemental grants for the lowest-income student.

Apply for scholarships from local, state, and federal organizations both public and private. Many scholarships are merit-based, but there are some needs-based scholarships too.

Attend in-state public universities, which offer lower tuition rates to in-state students than to out-of-state students.

Start at a 2-year community college. In most states, tuition at 2-year schools is lower than tuition at 4-year institutions. Attend the 2-year school for one or two years before transferring to a 4-year institution. If you attend a community college, choose one in your district for the lowest tuition costs.

Consider accelerated programs that allow you to earn a degree in a shorter period of time at a lower total cost.

Can Choosing an Online Program Reduce Tuition Cost?

Choosing an online degree program can reduce the cost of tuition compared to attending many private schools and some public schools in person, especially if you are an out-of-state student.

However, going to school in person at an in-state public college or an in-district community college costs less in tuition than many online schools.

What Is the Average Financial Aid Received?

The average financial aid received depends on the program the student applies to and is qualified to receive. Pell grants are the most common form of financial aid, and the average financial aid received from a Pell grant is $5,025 per year.

Other grants and average amount received are:

  • The average Federal Grant is $4,719 per year.
  • The average FSEOG Grant is between $100 and $4,000 per year.
  • The average miscellaneous Federal Grant is $1,288 per year.
  • The average State and Local Grants are $3,968 per year.
  • The average Institutional Grant is $11,726 per year.

What Can Cause Additional College Tuition?

Several factors can result in paying additional college tuition including taking extra classes. The most common reasons for additional tuition are:

Taking remedial courses required to meet basic college proficiency levels in subjects such as math and English. Remedial classes are required of students that do poorly on proficiency exams before entering college.

Retaking classes that were failed or in which a poor passing grade was received. In some cases, retaking a class is covered by financial aid, but not all.

Earning a double degree typically requires taking more classes and more tuition than the minimum required to earn a single degree.

Taking more classes than needed to complete a degree, for example for personal enrichment or to gain knowledge that will be useful in their chosen career path.

Graduating late or staying in college longer than necessary. For example, federal Pell grants cover tuition for 12 semesters. Staying in school after a Pell grant runs out causes an increase in tuition.

Attending a college that has a cost-per-credit system rather than a flat fee tuition system.

How Tuition Varies Based on Full-time and Part-time Attendance

Part-time students pay less in tuition per semester than full-time students, but they typically pay more for their completed education than full-time students. There are several reasons for this.

Most schools offer flat fee or flat rate tuition for full-time students but not for part-time students. As a result, a full-time student will pay less tuition per credit hour if they take a large number of credits. By contrast, part-time students at most colleges pay per-credit tuition, and that produces higher cost per credit hour. Tuition differences between part-time and full-time students at Oklahoma University, as a typical example, “Part-time students will be charged tuition on a per credit hour basis. Any undergraduate student registered in 12 or more hours will be charged a flat rate based on the current 15 credit hour rate for tuition…”

Pell grant eligibility also affects tuition cost for full-time vs part-time students. Full-time students often pay less in total tuition because they complete their degree before their Pell grant eligibility expires. For example, if part-time students are receiving federal Pell grants and take longer than 12 semesters to complete their degree, they will lose the Pell grant, and out-of-pocket tuition cost will rise.

Finally, tuition costs generally rise over time. Part-time students take longer to complete a degree, so they will likely be paying higher tuition rates towards the end of their education. 

Check more on differences between ful-time and part-time college students here. 

How Tuition Varies Based on Different Majors

Tuition is higher for majors like engineering, nursing, music, media and business than for most other majors.

For example, in the 2022-2023 school year, the University of Colorado-Boulder had 4 tuition tiers. Arts & Humanities, Social Science and Education were in the most affordable tier. Communication was in the next higher tier, and Engineering and Natural Sciences were next. Business was in the most expensive tier. At the University of Illinois recently, students in the College of Business were charged 42% higher in-state tuition than students studying English.

The primary reason for higher tuition rates for some majors is that those majors cost the university more money per student to produce. “Certain majors and programs are just more expensive to provide than others,” according to University of Iowa’s Sue Curry.

Reasons why some majors cost more in tuition are smaller class sizes or a lower student to instructor ratios in majors like nursing, the cost of coordinating internships and clinical experience in nursing, the need for more specialized and expensive equipment in engineering and technology majors, higher costs for lab time and supplies in majors like fine art, and higher instructor salaries in majors like business and computer science. 

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