Average cost of college

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For the 2021-22 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees for public four-year schools came out to $10,740 for in-state students and $27,560 for out-of-state students, according to the latest data from College Board. Private nonprofit four-year schools amassed a much higher $37,070 average.

And college costs keep rising; the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from the 2008-09 school to the 2018-19 school year, college tuition, fees and room and board has increased by more than 22 percent, even accounting for inflation. This could be part of why college enrollment has declined by 5 percent in the same time period, from 17.5 million undergraduates in fall 2009 to 16.6 million undergraduates in fall 2019.

Here’s everything you need to know about the average cost of college, how the costs have changed over time and the trends that have impacted this rising cost.

Key college cost statistics

  • In the 2021-22 school year, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university is $10,740 for in-state undergraduates and $27,560 for out-of-state undergraduates. Adding in room and board, supplies and other expenses brings that total to $27,330 and $44,150 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively.
  • In the 2021-22 school year, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a private nonprofit four-year university is $38,070. With room and board, supplies and other expenses, that total rises to $55,800.
  • The average annual cost of community college is $3,800 in tuition and fees and $18,830 inclusive of room and board and other expenses for the 2021-22 school year.
  • Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Tennessee are some of the most expensive states in which to get an undergraduate degree. Florida, South Dakota, Idaho, California and Nebraska are some of the cheapest.
  • 16.9 million students are enrolled in college in the U.S., as of spring 2021.

Average cost of college

The average cost of college in America depends on the type of college you attend and where you attend. Out-of-state students pay much more than in-state students, since nonresident students don’t pay taxes to the state in which they attend school.

Private colleges are usually the most expensive option because public schools receive funding from the federal government, whereas private colleges receive most of their funding through tuition costs and private donations.

The average cost of college also differs by degree level. A bachelor’s degree costs much less annually than a doctoral degree, though keep in mind that most advanced degrees take only one to two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete.

Average cost of college by school sector, 2021-22

Public two-year in-district Public four-year in-state Public four-year out-of-state Private nonprofit four-year
Tuition and fees $3,800 $10,740 $27,560 $38,070
Room and board $9,330 $11,950 $11,950 $13,620
Books and supplies, transportation and other expenses $5,700 $4,640 $4,640 $4,110
Total cost for one academic year $18,830 $27,330 $44,150 $55,800

Source: College Board

Average cost of college by classification, 2021-22

Bachelor’s (public four-year) Master’s (public four-year) Doctoral (public four-year) Bachelor’s (private nonprofit four-year) Master’s (private nonprofit four-year) Doctoral (private nonprofit four-year)
Tuition and fees $8,940 $9,000 $11,620 $38,290 $29,670 $44,830
Room and board $11,060 $10,980 $12,500 $12,640 $12,800 $15,530
Total cost of tuition, fees and room and board $20,000 $19,980 $24,120 $50,930 $42,470 $61,360

Source: College Board

College cost for undocumented students

Undocumented students face additional challenges when it comes to financing a college education. Undocumented students — including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — aren’t currently eligible to recieve federal financial aid. While the Biden administration proposed allowing DACA recipients to receive federal aid opportunities, nothing has been announced by the administration about signing this into law.

Undocumented students are lawfully entitled to a K-12 public education, regardless of state. However, this law doesn’t extend to higher education, and each state has different provisions regarding undocumented students and their ability to attend public schools or receive state aid. Here’s a breakdown of what states allow in regards to postsecondary financial aid, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

  • There are at least 19 states that allow in-state tuition for undocumented students: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah and Washington. Virginia grants in-state tuition to students specifically covered under the DACA program.
  • At least seven stated allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid: California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
  • Three states prohibit in-state tuition for undocmented students: Arizona, Georgia and Indiana.
  • Two states prohibit undocumented students from enrolling at a public institution: Alabama and South Carolina.

The average cost of college over time

College tuition costs have been steadily increasing over time, which student loan lender Earnest attributes to recruitment costs, capital improvements, administrative staff expansion, higher staff salaries and more.

Accounting for inflation, College Board has found that public two-year tuition and fee costs have increased by 7 percent since the 2011-12 school year. Public four-year tuition and fees have increased by 8.6 percent in that time, and private nonprofit four-year tuition and fees have increased by 14.3 percent. The percentage change increases even more when you add in the cost of room and board, books, supplies and other expenses.

Average undergraduate tuition and fees in 2021 dollars

Academic year Private nonprofit four-year Public four-year Public two-year
2011-12 $33,320 $9,890 $3,550
2012-13 $33,940 $10,130 $3,690
2013-14 $34,770 $10,260 $3,740
2014-15 $35,520 $10,390 $3,790
2015-16 $36,680 $10,690 $3,860
2016-17 $37,520 $10,830 $3,870
2017-18 $38,060 $10,940 $3,880
2018-19 $38,190 $10,930 $3,890
2019-20 $38,780 $10,980 $3,890
2020-21 $38,710 $10,980 $3,890
2021-22 $38,070 $10,740 $3,800

Source: College Board

Average cost of college by state

The average cost of public universities and colleges varies by state. The size of the state, the population and the number of colleges in each state are all factors that impact the average cost of college.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Tennessee are the most expensive states for public four-year, private four-year, public two-year in-state and public two-year out-of-state college, respectively. Florida, South Dakota, Idaho, California and Nebraska were the cheapest states for public four-year in-state, public four-year out-of-state, private four-year, public two-year in-state and public two-year out-of state college, respectively.

Average cost of undergraduate college tuition and fees by state, 2019-20

Public two-year (in-state) Public two-year (out-of-state) Public four-year (in-state) Public four-year (out-of-state) Private four-year
Alabama $4,854 $9,707 $10,323 $26,517 $16,743
Alaska N/A N/A $8,297 $26,767 $19,682
Arizona $2,151 $7,642 $11,072 $27,417 $12,895
Arkansas $3,398 $4,688 $8,689 $21,460 $23,875
California $1,270 $8,194 $8,192 $32,177 $37,009
Colorado $3,355 $7,103 $9,144 $30,773 $23,791
Connecticut $4,516 $13,490 $13,886 $35,197 $43,242
Delaware N/A N/A $11,091 $31,582 $14,858
District of Columbia N/A N/A $6,020 $12,704 $44,134
Florida $2,506 $9,111 $4,463 $18,514 $27,381
Georgia $3,156 $8,398 $7,457 $23,167 $29,752
Hawaii $3,225 $8,391 $10,109 $31,774 $17,977
Idaho $3,335 $8,295 $7,518 $24,845 $6,429
Illinois $4,035 $11,450 $14,455 $29,515 $35,570
Indiana $4,500 $8,661 $9,268 $29,533 $34,263
Iowa $5,306 $6,664 $9,373 $27,346 $35,019
Kansas $3,542 $4,695 $9,088 $23,745 $24,179
Kentucky $4,395 $14,826 $10,888 $26,048 $26,928
Louisiana $4,166 $8,282 $9,571 $22,128 $39,482
Maine $3,778 $6,642 $10,103 $28,523 $40,353
Maryland $4,330 $10,308 $9,714 $27,984 $44,048
Massachusetts $5,336 $10,690 $13,729 $31,894 $47,980
Michigan $3,703 $6,564 $13,315 $36,832 $29,405
Minnesota $5,566 $6,151 $11,748 $24,442 $34,321
Mississippi $3,432 $5,835 $8,604 $19,402 $18,612
Missouri $3,545 $6,797 $8,992 $20,877 $26,377
Montana $3,871 $8,596 $6,967 $25,239 $31,724
Nebraska $3,103 $3,969 $8,582 $22,152 $25,313
Nevada N/A N/A $6,023 $21,678 $26,284
New Hampshire $7,130 $15,335 $16,679 $30,594 $33,446
New Jersey $4,779 $8,092 $14,360 $29,435 $38,652
New Mexico $1,724 $6,624 $7,152 $19,181 $25,363
New York $5,476 $9,228 $8,467 $22,669 $41,404
North Carolina $2,494 $8,658 $7,228 $23,357 $35,379
North Dakota $5,073 $6,031 $8,628 $13,936 $15,732
Ohio $4,330 $7,528 $9,902 $24,830 $34,009
Oklahoma $4,150 $9,484 $8,009 $21,695 $29,429
Oregon $4,881 $8,640 $10,813 $32,068 $42,202
Pennsylvania $5,348 $13,480 $15,565 $30,222 $42,812
Rhode Island $4,700 $12,544 $13,105 $30,871 $43,919
South Carolina $4,916 $10,206 $12,497 $32,853 $26,270
South Dakota $6,469 $6,043 $8,978 $12,866 $25,353
Tennessee $4,379 $16,937 $10,164 $24,786 $29,200
Texas $2,380 $6,373 $8,598 $24,889 $36,014
Utah $3,929 $12,460 $6,700 $21,273 $7,600
Vermont $6,654 $13,398 $17,083 $41,057 $46,445
Virginia $5,237 $11,529 $13,655 $35,831 $23,493
Washington $4,468 $6,500 $7,168 $30,155 $39,791
West Virginia $4,344 $9,976 $8,195 $22,242 $12,673
Wisconsin $4,476 $6,499 $8,764 $25,522 $35,554
Wyoming $4,136 $10,101 $4,747 $14,803 N/A

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Average cost of college by university

The school that you attend is the biggest factor in determining how much student loan debt you could end up with. Generally, the more prestigious and well-known the university, the more expensive it will be.

The University of Pennsylvania comes in at the most expensive well-known school to attend per year, totaling over $83,000 in estimated expenses per year for in-state students.  The University of California, Los Angeles, estimates a total of just over $36,000 per year for in-state students, making it the least expensive well-known university in America.

Average cost of college at America’s most well-known universities, 2021-22

University Location Cost of undergraduate tuition (in-state) Total expected costs (in-state)
University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California $14,226 $41,678
Yale University New Haven, Connecticut $59,950 $77,750
Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey $56,010 $77,690
Stanford University Stanford, California $55,473 $78,898
Columbia University New York City, New York $60,514 $82,584
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts $55,510 $77,020
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts $51,143 $74,528
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, California $13,258 $36,297
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $54,652 $83,298
Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois $60,276 $83,838

Average cost of college America’s flagship universities

Flagship universities are the most well-known and largest public schools in any given state. The most expensive flagship schools can cost upward of $35,000 a year for in-state students and over $70,000 a year for out-of-state students. The least expensive schools can be as low as $19,000 per year for in-state students and $22,000 for out-of-state students.

Here’s a comprehensive list of each state’s flagship university and the total cost of undergraduate attendance per year for both in-state and out-of-state students.

Average cost of college at America’s flagship universities, 2021-22

University Estimated in-state undergraduate cost of attendance Estimated out-of-state undergraduate cost of attendance
University of Alaska Fairbanks $19,600–$21,340 $37,270–$38,980
University of Alabama $31,054 $51,398
University of Arkansas $26,978 $43,794
University of Arizona $21,150 $55,150
University of California: Berkeley $41,678 $71,432
University of Colorado at Boulder $29,372–$34,676 $55,190–$58,586
University of Connecticut $34,738 $57,406
University of Delaware $31,562 $53,422
University of Florida $21,430 $43,708
University of Georgia $27,946 $47,360
University of Hawaii at Manoa $5,652 (tuition and fees only) $16,668 (tuition and fees only)
University of Iowa $26,358 $48,321
University of Idaho $22,254 $41,490
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $33,060–$38,154 $50,850–$55,944
Indiana University: Bloomington $27,298 $54,318
University of Kansas $18,890–$27,665 $35,758–$44,533
University of Kentucky $31,754 $51,772
Louisiana State University $33,982 $50,659
University of Massachusetts: Amherst $30,656 $51,181
University of Maryland: College Park $28,074 $55,756
University of Maine $26,830 $48,430
University of Michigan $32,272–$34,302 $69,326–$73,056
University of Minnesota: Twin Cities $31,684 $51,774
University of Missouri: Columbia $30,292 $48,700
University of Mississippi $26,946 $43,788
University of Montana $23,096 $44,780
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $24,734 $52,908
University of North Dakota $10,596 (tuition and fees only) $15,037 (tuition and fees only)
University of Nebraska: Lincoln $26,316 $43,446
University of New Hampshire $34,978 $53,968
Rutgers University: New Brunswick Campus $29,206 $46,407
University of New Mexico $25,048 $41,776
University of Nevada: Reno $20,148 $36,240
State University of New York at Buffalo $28,866 $46,586
Ohio State University: Columbus Campus $25,288 (tuition and room and board only) $48,371 (tuition and room and board only)
University of Oklahoma $32,415 $48,219
University of Oregon $31,656 $58,635
Pennsylvania State University Park $33,056–$36,278 $50,634–$53,856
University of Rhode Island $28,600 $46,622
University of South Carolina $26,822 $48,062
University of South Dakota $18,844 $22,354
University of Tennessee: Knoxville $32,678 $51,098
University of Texas at Austin $28,894–$31,612 $56,686–$64,534
University of Utah $27,914 $48,874
University of Virginia $34,560–$45,246 $69,090–$81,645
University of Vermont $35,884 $61,172
University of Washington $30,640 $58,470
University of Wisconsin: Madison $27,530 $55,888
West Virginia University $20,398 $37,078
University of Wyoming $22,196 $36,746

Average financial aid

College Board found that undergraduate and graduate students received $234.9 billion in grants, work-study, federal student loans and federal tax credits in the 2020-21 school year. On average, graduate students take out larger federal loans than undergraduate students, while undergraduate students receive more grant aid and tax credits. The average financial aid below does not include private scholarships or private student loans, which can also cut down the cost of college significantly.

Average financial aid average per student, 2020-21

Average federal student loans Average grant aid Average other aid
Undergraduate students $3,780 $10,050 $970
Graduate students $17,540 $8,860 $520

Source: College Board

What does the cost of college pay for?

According to OneClass, for every $100 you spend on tuition, $61.46 goes directly toward education-related costs like staff salaries and facility upkeep. The other $38.54 goes toward noneducational expenses, like hospitals and student grants.

The largest spending categories are as follows:

  • 15.81 percent of your tuition goes toward salaries.
  • 15.58 percent of your tuition goes toward hospitals.
  • 11.66 percent of your tuition goes toward research.
  • 11.47 percent of your tuition goes toward other instruction expenses.
  • 9.61 percent of your tuition goes toward auxiliary enterprises.

Learn more:

Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor