How Much Does College Cost? Average College Tuition and More Statistics

Average college tuition is roughly $19,800, but it varies widely by type of school. Find average costs associated with college in our report.
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
Updated on January 9, 2024
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Data Summary

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    The average college tuition and fees at four-year schools in 2021-2022 was $19,806.[1]
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    The average total cost for a year of college at a four-year school — including tuition and fees, on-campus room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses — was $36,436.Note Reference [1] That's roughly $146,000 over the course of four years.
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    As of 2020-2021, the average net price — or total cost after financial aid — for a year of college ranged from $12,300-$27,740 at four-year schools.[2]
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    In 2021-2022, the average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges was nearly $9,600.[3]
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    At four-year private nonprofit schools, the average college tuition was about $37,220.Note Reference [3]
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    The average tuition at two-year public colleges was about $3,560.Note Reference [3]

Over the decades, the price tag of getting a college degree has skyrocketed. While most Americans surveyed by BestColleges valued alternatives to college as a viable educational option, 60% of business leaders said a college degree is important to long-term success.

Several factors can make your college education more or less expensive. Knowing them can help you plan your education. We collected college cost statistics, from average yearly tuition rates to pricing for textbooks and dorms, plus how expenses differ across states and school types.

Average College Tuition

The average college tuition across all schools was $14,307 in 2021-2022.Note Reference [3]

Private nonprofit colleges tend to have higher tuition than other school types. The average tuition at a four-year private nonprofit school was nearly four times that of a four-year public school. Two-year public colleges had the least expensive tuition.

Average College Tuition and Fees 2021-2022
School Type Average Annual Tuition and Required Fees
Four-Year Public $9,596
Four-Year Private Nonprofit $37,222
Four-Year Private For-Profit $15,518
Two-Year Public $3,564
Two-Year Private Nonprofit $18,480
Two-Year Private For-Profit $15,826
Source: National Center for Education StatisticsNote Reference [3]

Average Total Cost of College

There's more to the cost of college than tuition alone. The all-in cost of college includes tuition and fees, textbooks and supplies, college dorm or off-campus living expenses, and other student expenses like transportation.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports the average total cost of attending college for first-time undergrads based on students' living arrangements: if they live on campus, off campus, or off campus with family.

Four-year schools are generally more expensive than two-year schools. At four-year schools, a year of total college expenses for students living on campus amounts to $36,436, or about $146,000 over four years. Two-year schools cost on-campus students an average of $16,782 per year, or roughly $34,000 over two years.

Average Net Cost of College

The sum of tuition and other college expenses still doesn't tell the whole story of what students pay for school. That's because students can take advantage of scholarships and grants to subsidize the cost of college.

The table below represents the average cost of college minus aid from scholarships or grants across all income levels. Keep in mind the amount of aid students receive depends on their income level.

Average Net Cost of College 2020-2021
School Type Average Net Cost for One Year of College
Four-Year Public $13,720
Four-Year Private Nonprofit $26,520
Four-Year Private For-Profit $22,950
Two-Year Public $7,830
Two-Year Private Nonprofit $19,360
Two-Year Private For-Profit $22,650
Source: NCESNote Reference [2]

Cost of College Over Time

Even accounting for inflation, college costs have more than doubled since the seventies. From 1971 to 2021, the total price tag for college increased by 126%, or 2.3 times.Note Reference [3]

Cost of College by School Type

The cost of college varies by school type, like public vs. private and two-year vs. four-year schools. In this section, we dig into cost differences by school category.

Public College Tuition: In-State vs. Out-of-State

Public colleges and universities receive funding from state taxpayers. This funding allows public colleges to offer lower tuition rates than private institutions. It also means that lower rates only apply to students who are state residents, resulting in a steep difference between in-state vs. out-of-state tuition.

On average, out-of-state tuition at four-year public colleges is close to three times that of in-state tuition.[4]

U.S. Average Public College Annual Tuition and Fees for In-State and Out-of-State Students in 2021-2022
School Type In-State Student Out-of-State Student
Two-Year Public Institution $3,564 $8,415
Four-Year Public Institution $9,596 $27,457
Source: NCESNote Reference [4]

Private College Tuition: Nonprofit vs. For-Profit College

Unlike public colleges, private schools earn money primarily through tuition and donors. But there are different types of private colleges. Private nonprofit schools invest the money they receive into the school's offerings. Private for-profit schools give earnings to investors.

On average, private for-profit colleges have lower tuition rates. However, private nonprofit institutions generally award much higher grants to students. These schools are also more likely to award financial aid to students. About 83% of students attending private nonprofit schools receive an institutional grant, compared to just 24% of students at private for-profit schools.

Cost of Ivy League and Other Elite Colleges

Some of the nation's most selective and esteemed institutions, such as Ivy League and other elite schools, have the highest tuition rates. At the same time, these schools often provide large financial aid packages.

Learn more about the country's most expensive colleges.

2022-2023 Average Annual Costs and Net Price of Ivy League and Other Select Top Schools for Full-Time Beginning Undergraduates
School Average Tuition and Fees Average Total Cost (On-Campus) Average Grant or Scholarship Aid Awarded Average Net Price After Aid (2021-2022)
Amherst College $64,100 $83,650 $58,690 $21,370
Brown University $65,150 $83,690 $55,850 $26,720
Columbia University $66,140 $86,100 $61,060 $22,060
Cornell University $63,200 $83,200 $54,220 $26,060
Dartmouth College $62,660 $83,800 $62,290 $19,210
Duke University $62,690 $82,750 $57,440 $23,690
Harvard University $57,260 $83,540 $61,800 $19,490
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $57,990 $79,850 $45,590 $20,230
Princeton University $57,410 $80,420 $59,790 $18,700
Stanford University $58,420 $82,160 $60,620 $18,280
University of Pennsylvania $63,450 $85,740 $57,180 $26,120
Yale University $62,250 $85,120 $63,520 $18,650
Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest $10.
Source: NCES[6]

Average Cost of Online College

Students at online colleges may escape some fees related to on-campus services. However, online learners usually incur many of the same expenses as on-campus learners and may even have additional fees to consider, such as those related to technology.

Net Price of Online College

There are 65 degree-conferring distance-learning-only institutions in the NCES College Navigator database.Note Reference [6]

Of those, 38 reported the net cost of attendance for full-time first-year undergraduate students in 2021-2022.

Of those 38 reporting distance-learning-only schools:

  • The average net cost of attendance for full-time first-year undergraduate students was about $17,140.
  • As with in-person schools, public schools were less expensive than private schools, on average.
  • Unlike in-person colleges, online private for-profit schools were more expensive than online private nonprofit schools, on average.

Average Cost of College by State

As of 2021-2022, states with the highest tuition for state residents at four-year public colleges were in the Northeast and Midwest. These states' average tuition rates were roughly 2-4 times more expensive than the cheapest states' average tuition.Note Reference [4]

States with the highest average in-state public school tuition:

  1. Vermont ($17,683)
  2. New Hampshire ($16,846)
  3. Illinois ($14,993)
  4. Connecticut ($14,963)
  5. Pennsylvania ($14,920)

States with the lowest average in-state public school tuition:

  1. Florida ($4,613)
  2. Wyoming ($4,929)
  3. Washington, D.C. ($6,152)
  4. Nevada ($6,564)
  5. Montana ($7,097)

States with the highest average tuition at four-year private schools were:

  1. Massachusetts ($50,820)
  2. Vermont ($48,968)
  3. Rhode Island ($47,522)
  4. Maryland ($47,092)
  5. Oregon ($45,571)

Average Yearly Public School Undergraduate Tuition and Fees by State, 2021-2022

Sort Results by:
Average Yearly Public School Undergraduate Tuition and Fees by State, 2021-2022
State Four-Year In-State Four-Year Out-of-State Two-Year In-State Two-Year Out-of-State
Alabama $10,737 $27,145 $4,920 $9,647
Alaska $8,851 $25,414 No Data No Data
Arizona $11,452 $26,025 $2,182 $7,333
Arkansas $8,622 $21,981 $3,486 $4,882
California $8,559 $34,454 $1,281 $8,936
Colorado $9,573 $31,699 $3,329 $9,530
Connecticut $14,963 $37,414 $4,538 $13,494
Delaware $11,707 $32,419 No Data No Data
District of Columbia $6,152 $13,004 No Data No Data
Florida $4,613 $18,344 $2,506 $9,111
Georgia $7,632 $23,345 $3,174 $8,538
Hawaii $10,356 $32,043 $3,225 $8,378
Idaho $7,478 $24,754 $3,327 $8,228
Illinois $14,993 $29,350 $4,204 $11,339
Indiana $9,780 $29,269 $4,637 $8,927
Iowa $9,670 $28,257 $5,455 $7,008
Kansas $9,216 $23,967 $3,551 $4,756
Kentucky $11,107 $25,325 $4,516 $15,262
Louisiana $9,749 $23,395 $4,242 $5,445
Maine $10,650 $30,099 $3,866 $6,748
Maryland $9,851 $27,111 $4,367 $10,631
Massachusetts $14,023 $32,291 $5,559 $10,715
Michigan $14,116 $40,004 $3,871 $7,803
Minnesota $12,345 $25,238 $5,795 $6,312
Mississippi $8,930 $20,848 $3,592 $5,886
Missouri $9,944 $22,812 $3,909 $7,289
Montana $7,097 $27,435 $3,940 $9,301
Nebraska $8,763 $21,953 $3,319 $4,220
Nevada $6,564 $23,550 No Data No Data
New Hampshire $16,846 $32,035 $7,109 $15,324
New Jersey $14,861 $29,681 $4,909 $8,148
New Mexico $7,311 $21,952 $1,805 $6,461
New York $8,541 $20,304 $5,660 $8,872
North Carolina $7,337 $23,452 $2,524 $8,537
North Dakota $9,364 $13,973 $5,441 $6,449
Ohio $10,456 $26,881 $4,498 $8,097
Oklahoma $8,291 $22,125 $4,288 $9,413
Oregon $11,871 $34,292 $5,204 $8,865
Pennsylvania $14,920 $26,426 $5,549 $12,657
Rhode Island $14,172 $32,910 $4,980 $13,260
South Carolina $12,605 $33,217 $4,991 $10,330
South Dakota $9,131 $13,194 $7,367 $7,211
Tennessee $10,397 $24,381 $4,459 $17,209
Texas $8,185 $25,419 $2,859 $7,913
Utah $7,115 $22,244 $4,086 $12,734
Vermont $17,683 $41,914 $6,920 $13,640
Virginia $14,273 $36,674 $5,196 $12,094
Washington $7,842 $31,410 $4,727 $8,421
West Virginia $8,451 $22,915 $4,544 $10,071
Wisconsin $8,905 $27,024 $4,585 $6,627
Wyoming $4,929 $14,669 $4,071 $9,868
Source: NCESNote Reference [4]

College Expenses Beyond Tuition

Students have lives outside of the classroom, so they have expenses beyond just tuition. Each college student's budget depends on their individual circumstances, but here's the data behind typical college costs.

Cost of Room & Board in College

Room and board refers to the cost of on-campus housing (room) plus a meal plan (board).

Across all institutions in 2021-22, the average cost to live in dorms for one school year was $7,097. The average board cost was roughly $5,500.Note Reference [3]

Living Off-Campus

Depending on where you live, it could be cheaper or costlier to rent an apartment off campus. National data suggests that, on average, the costs are pretty similar. The average difference between living on and off campus is $150 a year.

However, students living with family off campus (i.e., not paying for their own housing) save over $12,000 a year on average.

The average total cost for a student attending a four-year college in their first year is:Note Reference [1]

  • $36,436 to live on campus
  • $36,586 to live off campus
  • $24,488 to live off campus with family

Cost of College Textbooks and Supplies

The average cost of college books and supplies for first-year, full-time undergraduate students was comparable at public and private nonprofit schools. It was slightly less at private for-profit schools.

Average Cost of Books and Supplies for First-Year, Full-Time Undergraduates in 2021-2022
School Type Average Cost
All Schools $1,215
Public $1,216
Private Nonprofit $1,226
Private For-Profit $1,035
Source: NCESNote Reference [1]

However, students can save money on textbooks by renting books or buying them used.

Transportation Costs

As expected, commuter students report spending more on transportation than students living on-campus.

Other Costs in College

The NCES' "other expenses" category includes many diverse, sometimes hidden costs of college, such as transportation, entertainment, laundry, dorm supplies, loan fees, study abroad, childcare, healthcare expenses, and more.

  • In 2020-2021, the average "other" expenses for first-year, on-campus college students across all schools were $3,304.Note Reference [1]
  • Students living off campus had higher "other" expenses, averaging $4,551.Note Reference [1]

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of College

How much does four years of college cost on average?

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The average total cost of college in 2021-2022 was $36,436 a year. That's about $146,200 over four years.Note Reference [1]

However, many students receive free financial aid through scholarships or grants, which lowers their net expenses. In 2020-2021, the average price of college after scholarships and grants was about $13,720 for public and $26,520 for private nonprofit colleges. Over four years, that's $55,000 to attend a public college and $106,000 for private colleges.Note Reference [2]

What is the average cost of state college?

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For state residents, the average tuition at a four-year public college or university in 2021-2022 was $10,215. For out-of-state students, state school tuition costs about $26,590 a year, on average.Note Reference [4]

How much has the cost of college increased?

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College tuition has more than tripled since the 1960s — that's accounting for inflation. Room and board expenses almost doubled. Attending a four-year public college costs 64% more than it did 20 years ago.