Thinking about becoming a dental hygienist? You’re in luck. This career pays well and only requires two years of school.
For the 2017-2018 school year, dental hygienist program tuition and fees cost an average of $15,508 for first-year in-district students. Fees include supplies and instruments, uniforms, textbooks, laboratory fees, and other fixed costs. Add in housing and transportation, and the average total cost jumps to $25,968 per year.
Of course, dental hygienist school costs vary greatly depending on institution type and the school you choose. Continue reading for a breakdown of costs.
Dental Hygienist School Cost by Educational Setting
How much you pay for a dental hygiene program heavily depends on what educational setting you choose. In general, community colleges offer students the most affordable tuition rates.
Look at the 2017-2018 average first-year in-district tuition by educational setting:
- University/Four-Year College (School of Health Sciences): $12,567
- University/Four-Year College (Dental School/Separate Dental Dept./Other Univ.): $16,956
- Community College: $4,613
- Technical College/Institute: $7,695
- Vocational School/Career College: $24,315
- Other: $10,327
Vocational schools and career colleges cost the most—just over five times the cost of a community college dental hygiene program. However, since vocational schools are usually private institutions, they generally have more financial aid to offer students.
Dental Hygiene School Cost – Mandatory Fees
Along with tuition, you need to account for mandatory fees. The ADA’s survey asked colleges to list average prices for the following fee categories:
- Supplies and instruments: $442
- Uniforms: $223
- Textbooks: $730
- Laboratory Fees: $598
- Other Fixed Costs: $719
Total fees equaled an average of $2,712 for a single year. Check with the schools you’re interested in for a school-specific fee breakdown.
Dental Hygiene School Costs Overtime – Tuition & Fees
Tuition and fees for a dental hygiene degree have steadily increased over time. For the 2007 to 2008 school year, in-district tuition cost $16,418, out-of-district tuition cost $18,007, and out-of-state tuition cost $25,886. Costs rose 73% to $28,476, 72% to $30,996, and 59% to $41,398 respectively for the 2017-2018 school year.
Comparing 2016-2017 costs to 2017-2018 costs, you see an increase of 3% for in-district, 1.3% for out-of-district, and 3.6% for out-of-state tuition. Patterns suggest that costs will continue to steadily increase.
Graph title: Average Total Costs for Tuition & Fees from 2007 to 2018
Dental Hygiene School Costs by School
Your personal dental hygiene costs come down to where you live and the specific institution you choose. Staying within your state and your district saves you the most money.
Schools with the Lowest Dental Hygiene School Cost
Live near any of the following? The ADA found that these schools had the most affordable yearly in-district tuition and mandatory fees* in 2018:
- Fox Valley Technical College (WI): $1,385
- Wharton County Junior College (TX): $3,668
- Oxnard College (CA): $3,692
- Eugenio Maria De Hostos Community College (NY): $4,610
- Coastal Bend College (TX): $4,890
- Atlanta Technical College (GA): $4,922
- Del Mar College (TX): $5,018
- Perimeter College of Georgia State University: $5,090
- South Florida State College: $5,250
- Bridge Valley Community and Technical College: $5,319
Schools with the Highest Dental Hygiene School Cost
The following schools charge the highest in-district tuition and mandatory fees* for the first-year of a dental hygiene program:
- Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (CA): $83,863
- New York University College of Dentistry: $58,730
- University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (CA): $51,289
- University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry (MI): $5
- MCPHS University (MA): $46,950
- West Coast University (CA): $44,551
- Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (CA): $42,486
- Carrington College of Boise (ID): $41,857
- University of Bridgeport/Fones School of Dental Hygiene (CT): $40,550
- University of New Haven (CT): $36,875
When choosing a dental hygiene school, cost is a huge factor to consider. But, don’t limit your options to the schools with the lowest sticker price. Expensive programs—even the most expensive programs—could end up being affordable. It all comes down to scholarship and financial aid awards.
*Mandatory fees include supplies and instruments, uniforms, textbooks, laboratory fees, and other fixed costs.
Room & Board Costs While in Dental Hygiene School
Dental hygienist students spend two to four years working toward their associate or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. You have to live somewhere during that time. Room and board costs substantially increase the total cost of your dental hygienist degree.
According to College Board, average room and board costs looked like this for the 2018-2019 school year:
- Public Two-Year In-District (off-campus): $8,660
- Public Four-Year In-State: $11,140
- Public Four-Year Out-of-State: $11,140
- Private Nonprofit Four-Year: $12,680
Transportation Costs While in Dental Hygiene School
Whether you live on or off-campus, you’ll need some sort of transportation during your two or four years in school.
College Board shows that transportation costs look like this on average:
- Public Two-Year In-District (commuter): $1,800
- Public Four-Year In-State: $1,160
- Public Four-Year Out-of-State: $1,160
- Private Nonprofit Four-Year: $1,050
Average Budget for Dental Hygiene School
Based on the everything above, your first-year budget for dental hygiene school could look like this:
- $15,508 for in-district tuition and fees
- $8,660 for off-campus room and board
- $1,800 for transportation
That’s a total average yearly cost of $25,968.
Don’t worry though. By simply choosing a community college, the total average cost goes down to $17,785.
Opportunity Cost of Dental Hygiene School: $75,920+
Dental hygienists spend two to four years in colleges earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Meanwhile, their peers from high school are making full-time wages—the opportunity cost of earning a degree.
The median earnings for a high school graduate are $730 per week or $37,960 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If that salary remains constant for two years, you’re missing out on $75,920. The number doesn’t include benefits like matching retirement contributions or bonuses.
Is Becoming a Dental Hygienist Worth the Cost?
Dental hygiene is worth the cost—if you make smart choices.
The field offers a high earning potential, a 20% increase in employment opportunities from 2016 to 2026, and the option to work part-time or full-time.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for dental hygienists was $74,820 per year in 2018. The average salary was $75,500. This makes dental hygiene the sixth highest paying occupation that requires an associate degree for entry. It’s also about double what you would make if your highest level of education was a high school diploma.
You might start out making as much as the median salary, but it’s not likely. Payscale reports that entry-level dental hygienists make a median salary of $54,000. That’s still significantly higher than a high school graduate’s salary. This data comes from 2,070 reported entry-level salaries.
Final Thoughts on Dental Hygiene School Costs
Easily reduce the cost of a dental hygiene degree by following these tips:
- Complete your two-year degree at a local community college
- Live at home if possible
- Work while in school and/or over the summer to save money for tuition
- Borrow only the minimum amount if you need to borrow
Apply for scholarships if you’re attending a private institution
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