How Much Does College Cost?

Estimating the price tag for community colleges, state schools, and private schools.

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A college degree is just like anything else. You can pay a lot or you can pay very little. And you don't always get what you pay for.

A few hundred of the very top students and student-athletes around the country don't pay anything because they manage to win "full ride" scholarships each year. A few hundred more are admitted to the handful of colleges that don't charge any tuition (though they still usually have to pay for their textbook and living costs). About half of all college students get some sort of grant or scholarship to reduce their costs. But the size of the grant is typically modest. The averages range from $2,200 apiece to community college students to $7,700 apiece to private university students.

But about half of all college students get no free money and have to pay the full price of college by borrowing, working, or withdrawing from their savings.

Each college has a different cost, but here are the College Board's estimates of total costs (including books, travel, etc.) for the 2007-08 academic year:

Type of School Without grants With grants
Community college* $4,552 $2,352
In-state public university $17,336 $13,336
Private university $35,374 $27,674

*assumes the student continues to live and eat at home, thus no room and board expenses