How Much Does Community College Cost?

Community college can cost an average of $19,577 a year for in-state students. Find tuition rates, financial aid, and tuition-free programs using our guide.

Published November 4, 2022

Edited by Jordan Stewart-Rozema, Ph.D.
Fact-checked by Marley Hall
How Much Does Community College Cost?
Photo by Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images


Data Summary

  • In 2020-2021, the average total cost of attendance at two-year public institutions started at $9,666 a year for in-state students.[1]
  • Out-of-state students paid an average of $4,755 more than in-state students for tuition and other required fees at community colleges in 2021.[2]
  • Over the last 20 years, average tuition costs at community colleges have nearly tripled.[3]
  • Despite rising community college costs, 31 states offer some form of free community college.[4]
  • In 2020, roughly 81% of enrolled community college students were awarded some type of financial aid to pay for school.[5]
  • In 2019, about 45% of full-time community college students also were employed full or part time in the workforce.[6]

For those interested in earning a degree, community college is a significantly cheaper option than a public or private four-year institution. But even at community colleges, the cost of education is continuing to rise.

This report explores the average costs community college students can expect and what options they have to pay for that education.

Explore more student loan debt statistics

Average Cost of Community College

As of the 2020-2021 academic year, the average total cost of community college in the U.S. ranged from $9,666-$19,577 for in-state students depending on their living arrangements, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).Note Reference [1] Here's what makes up that total cost:

  • The average tuition cost for in-state students as of 2021 was $3,501.Note Reference [3]
  • The average cost of room and board was $8,056.Note Reference [3] For students living off campus and not with family, room and board cost an average of $9,902.Note Reference [1]
  • The average cost for books and other school supplies add up to $1,471.Note Reference [1]
  • Other costs to cover expenses like laundry, transportation, entertainment, and furnishings amounted to $4,342.Note Reference [1]
  • Commuter costs for community college students during the 2021-2022 academic year totaled $1,870.[7]

Cost of Community College Over Time

Between 2000 and 2021, average tuition costs at two-year public institutions increased by about 163% to $3,501 a year. In just the past five years, tuition costs rose more than 15%.Note Reference [3]

Source: NCESNote Reference [3]

Room and board costs also jumped during the same period at the small subset of two-year public institutions that offer on-campus housing. Between 2000 and 2021, the average cost of room and board more than doubled — from $3,506 to $8,056 a year.Note Reference [3]

Source: NCESNote Reference [3]

Average Cost of Community College by State

California, New Mexico, and Arizona have the lowest in-state average costs for community colleges in the U.S. For out-of-state students, two-year public institutions in Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas have the lowest average costs. On average, out-of-state students paid $4,755 more in tuition and fees than in-state students during the 2020-2021 academic year.Note Reference [2]

Source: NCESNote Reference [2]

Free Community College by State

President Biden pushed to introduce widespread free community college tuition in his original Build Back Better plan in 2021. But the initiative struggled to gain congressional support and was ultimately removed from the package by the end of the year.

Despite the loss of this initiative, at least 31 states already offer some form of free community college tuition, either with eligibility requirements or certain limitations.Note Reference [4]

Source: Campaign for Free College Tuition

How Students Pay for Community College

Many community college students utilize financial aid and work full or part time to pay for their education.

In 2020, 80.6% of students enrolled at two-year public institutions received some type of financial aid to attend school.Note Reference [5] Aid was received in the form of federal, state, or institutional grants and/or student loans.

  • 60% of students who were awarded financial aid in 2020 received it through federal grants.
  • The average amount of federal grant aid awarded to community college students during the 2019-2020 academic year was $4,840.
  • Students were awarded, on average, $2,278 in state/local grants and $2,088 in institutional grants.
  • The average amount in student loans offered to learners was $4,696. This only includes loans made directly to students, meaning Parent PLUS loans or other loans made to parents were excluded.
  • Just 17.2% of community college students were awarded federal student loans.

In 2019, 45.3% of full-time and 87.3% of part-time community college students were also employed full or part time in the workforce.Note Reference [6]

Source: NCESNote Reference [6]

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Community College

How much does two years of community college cost on average?

In 2021, the average total cost of community college for in-state students living off campus without family was $19,577 a year. Over two years, that's $39,154.Note Reference [1]

Because out-of-state students paid, on average, $4,755 more in tuition and fees than in-state students in 2021Note Reference [2], the average total cost for two years of school for these students was about $48,664.

What is the average cost of books for community college students?

In 2020-2021, books and supplies cost students an average of $1,471. That includes textbooks, e-textbooks, and other course materials.Note Reference [1]

Is community college free anywhere?

Yes, there are free tuition programs for community college students in at least 31 states. Some states have eligibility requirements like minimum GPA, number of credit hours, or income restrictions.Note Reference [4]

How much has the cost of community college increased?

Today, the cost of community college is about 21 times greater than it was in 1970. In just the last 20 years, annual tuition costs at two-year public institutions have risen from $1,333 to $3,501 — or nearly tripled.Note Reference [3]