How much you’ll need

Explore how much money you’ll need for school.

Average yearly cost at 4-year college
A 2016 College Board study showed that the average yearly cost (tuition, room and board, and fees) of a year at a private college or university is $49,320. At public universities, the average costs are nearly $25,000/year for in-state students and $39,890/year for out-of-state students. It makes sense to start saving as much as you can as soon as you can.

Why costs vary
The amount of money you’ll need for school depends on many factors: the school you choose, whether it’s public or private, whether you’ll be completing a 2-year or 4-year program, and whether you’re going to be living at home or at school. The total price tag can vary significantly.

An old-fashioned scale with a pile of money on one side

COA: A simple way to compare costs
Each year, all schools above the high school level (postsecondary educational institutions) develop a Cost of Attendance figure, or COA. The COA is the total cost of full time education for one year. It includes the average cost of instruction, known as tuition; fees, books, and supplies; and housing and meals, also called room and board. Contact any school that interests you and ask about their COA.

Other factors to consider
Money’s not the only factor to consider when comparing schools. The fact that one school costs more than another doesn’t guarantee that the quality of education will be better. Consider other factors, such as which school has the stronger program in your favorite subjects, which one has a better reputation, and which has the kind of environment you think you’d enjoy.

Click the Next button to learn about ways families can set aside money to pay for education.