The Real Cost of College
Where a student’s money goes over a four-year degree
After four years of all-night study sessions with friends, countless early morning classes, and semesters spent learning — with a dash of blowing off steam here and there — what does that piece of paper actually cost?
The Tried and True Expenses: Tuition and Loans
The bulk of student expenses come from school tuition — and heavy student loans for students that aren’t eligible for scholarships, grants, or other financial assistance.
• $23,410: The average cost of in-state tuition for a public university in 2015.
• $46,272: The average cost of in-state tuition for a private learning institution in 2015.
• $35,000: The average amount of loan debt a 2015 graduate will have to face in the coming years.
Graduate students tend to have higher loan debt than their undergraduate counterparts, with 65 percent of 2012 graduates racking up $50,000 in student loans.
• 59 percent of students end up not finishing their undergraduate degree, and may have up to $10,000 in debt that they are struggling–or don’t want to–pay back.
Hitting the Books
Once students have set their schedule for the semester, it’s time to purchase the required course materials.
• One course worth of books = hundreds of dollars. Students spent an average of $313 per course on books, according to The National Association of College Stores.
• The College Board found students paid anywhere from $1,146 to $1,244 for books in the 2014-2015 school year.
• The cost of books continues to rise. One study found the price of books jumped 82 percent in the last 10 years alone.
• Where to buy? Approximately 66 percent of students still buy their textbooks and college materials from their local college bookstore.
• Other students value short term leases on learning. According to a Student Watch survey, 40 percent of college students preferred to rent their textbooks rather than purchase them outright.
With more classes than ever going mobile, many students may prefer a tablet or laptop to keep up with class notes, research and term papers. In 2013, technology purchases for educational purposes reached $13 billion.
• 81 percent: The average amount of students who prefer to study digitally. This marks a 40 percent increase from 2013.
• Of 1,700 students surveyed, 77 percent indicated they felt they scored higher by using a tablet or laptop than simple class notes. Approximately 48 percent said that digital-based studying actually saved them time in the long run.
Food and Drink, A la Carte
Everyone needs to eat–and college students are typically strapped for cash. That doesn’t mean they don’t dole out cash for not-so-smart eats.
• The price of pizza stacks up. The average college student could spend $2,000 on pizza over the course of four years, according to Mark Kantrowitz at FinAid.org.
• Oodles of noodles: still a student staple. At 13 cents a package, ramen noodles remain a favorite for many students–it’s Japanese nickname gakusei ryori translates to “student food.”
• Party on…to an empty wallet? Over a four-year time period, the average college student could spent $500 a year on alcoholic beverages.
• The freshman five. Freshman typically drink five alcoholic beverages per week–which could negatively affect their academic performance.
Having a place to crash and a way to get around town is essential for every student.
• $9,804: average cost of room and board at public university
• $11,188: average cost of room and board at private university
The College Board estimates that college students spent between $2,609 and $3,242 during the 2014-2015 school year on transportation, among other personal expenses, including clothing or entertainment.
Prepping for graduate school may begin before many college students even cross the stage to collect their undergraduate degree. Graduate level tests such as the GRE and GMAT take precious hours of study–and extra money–to ace.
• GRE: $195
• GMAT: $250
• LSAT: $175
• MCAT: $300
Other fees may also apply, including paying the testing site, or having to reschedule. Both the GRE and GMAT charge $50 to reschedule a test date.