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US College Costs and Tuition

How much will studying at a US college cost you?

The bottom line: How much will studying at a US college cost you or your family?

US college costs can vary widely, depending on whether the college is a private or public institution, a community college or a full university and whether you will attend as an in-state or out-of-state resident.

Tuition at US Colleges

A good place to begin is by comparing the tuition and housing costs of each college where you want to apply.

As a general rule, studying at private colleges costs four times as much as studying at public colleges. In extreme examples, tuition at a private college can cost as much as 20 times more than a small public college.

Tuition tends to cost less at community or junior colleges. One strategy used by cash-strapped students is to attend a junior college for the first two years and then complete their degree at a larger university.

Tuition differences between in-state and out-of-state students can be more than $10,000, so look into the residency requirements of the state where the public college or university is located as well.

Colleges and Universities

Annual Tuition

(2013-2014 school year)

New York University [private]

$44,845

University of Southern California [private]

$46, 363

Harvard University [private]

$42,292

Illinois Institute of Technology [private]

$40,117

Grove City College (Pennsylvania) [private]

$14,880

Bowling Green State University (Ohio) [public]

$10,726 (resident of state)

$18,034 (non-resident)

Purdue University (Indiana) [public]

$9,992 (resident of state)

$28,794 (non-resident)

University of Kansas [public]

$10,107 (resident of state)

$24,873 (non-resident)

Truman State University (Missouri) [public]

$7,368 (resident of state)

$13,240 (non-resident)

University of Alabama [public]

$9,450 (resident of state)

$23,950 (non-resident)

Housing at US Colleges

US student housing will be your next big college cost, although the variables here are not as extreme. The average annual housing fee for a four-year private US college is about $9,000. Housing at a four-year public college costs about $7,000.

And while there are variations from college to college, there can be variations within the housing system of a given school as well. Some colleges charge freshmen more for housing than they do for returning students. Many colleges now require that students live in college dorms for their freshman year, and sometimes their sophomore year as well.

If you would prefer to live off campus, check out the rental market in the city where the college is located — particularly the neighborhood near campus. Some landlords offer student-specific (academic-year only) leases. Some will not rent to students without a co-signer (usually a parent) on the lease.

Medical Plans/Insurance at US Colleges

The US college cost of health care and insurance plans varies widely, though in general they’re less expensive than private plans (with, of course, less services). Student insurance plans can be about $200 per semester, and most plans are for full-time students only.

Some states require that all entering students be insured, so be prepared to provide proof of coverage. Sometimes students are automatically charged for insurance unless it has been officially waived.

If you are currently covered on a parent’s plan, you should check to see how long that coverage extends. In some cases it can last until dependents are in their mid-twenties. If you’re lucky, you may end up with a better plan without spending anything at all.

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Of course, there will be other US college costs (did somebody say “textbooks,” “food” and “movies”?), but these are the major ones. Evaluating the costs of a US college education will not make the experience any cheaper, but it will make paying the bills less stressful!