Right now, more than 20 million students are in college and paying more than ever for their education. Like in years prior, the average cost of college is on the rise in 2018. No matter what degree you pursue, expect to pay more than students did last year.
How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree Cost in 2018?
Average Cost of College Tuition
Tuition covers the academic side of your college experience. You either pay a per-credit rate or a per semester rate. Students who pay per-semester get the better deal. For the 2017-2018 school year, tuition at a four-year private college costs an average of $34,740. Public universities charge in-state students $9,970 and out-of-state students $25,620. During your time in school, expect the yearly price to increase by an average of 2.4% at private colleges and 3.2% at public colleges.
Bachelor’s Degree Cost Per Year
When accounting for room and board, the average cost of college rises significantly. Data presented by College Board shows that students at four-year public in-state schools pay more for room and board than they do for tuition—$10,800. Their full cost then becomes $20,770. Out-of-state students pay the same $10,800 for room and board, so these students pay an average of $36,420. Private four-year colleges charge slightly more at $12,210, bringing the total annual cost to $46,950. To see what your favorite colleges charge, use the College Scorecard tool.
How Much Does an Associate’s Degree Cost in 2018?
Associate’s Degree Tuition
Associate’s degrees take around two years to complete and the majority are earned at community colleges. For associate’s degree students, the average cost of college tuition is just $3,570 per year at public institutions. Private two-year schools charge significantly more at $14,587.
Two-Year Degree Cost Per Year
Students at two-year colleges typically commute. Commuting is a surefire way to save some money. However, it does come with its own costs. The National Center for Education Statistics found that students who live at home with family spend around $3,939 on average for living expenses. Those who live off-campus on their own or with roommates spend around $8,235.
What about transportation costs? Unless their parent works at the college or they can walk, commuters must drive, take a subway, or take a bus. Drivers spend money on gas, maintaining their car, campus parking, and car insurance. For any kind of travel, colleges estimate average transportation costs to be $1,780.
Adding tuition costs, room and board, and transportation together results in a yearly cost of:
- $9,289 for public college students living at home
- $20,306 for private college students living at home
- $13,585 for public college students living off-campus without family
- $24,602 for private college students living off-campus without family
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How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost in 2018?
Master’s Degree Tuition
Students take anywhere from two to five years to complete their master’s degree. The program’s cost heavily depends on the field of study and the type of college. As of 2018, the average master’s degree tuition cost is $8,670 at public universities and $29,960 at private universities.
Yearly Cost for Master’s Students
A lot of factors determine the cost of a master’s degree. The two simplest are tuition and room and board. For the 2017-2018 school year, students at public colleges spent an average of $10,020 on room and board while students at private colleges spent $11,490. When considering tuition and living expenses, master’s students spend a total of $18,690 and $41,450 respectively.
Changes in the Cost of College over Time
Has the average cost of college always been this high? It has, and if it follows historical trends, it will keep getting higher. Data comparing tuition and room and board costs from the 2007-2008 school year to the 2017 to 2018 school year confirms this. During that time, costs rose 2.7% for public four-year schools per year and 2.2% for private four-year colleges per year. Public two-year colleges showed a yearly 2.8% increase in their tuition and fees costs. Over that same ten-year span, master’s degree costs increased by a total of 45% for public universities and 16% for private colleges.
Check out the graph below to examine the rising cost of college tuition over the past ten years.
Cost of Books
Do not leave textbooks out of your estimated college expenses. On average, four-year college students spend about $1,298 per year on textbooks and supplies like art materials or lab safety gear. This adds an additional $4,800 to a student’s four-year expenses. You can usually find estimated books and supply expenses on an individual college’s website. For most classes, you can purchase used books to save some cash. Check out some tips on how to save money in college by buying and selling cheap textbooks.
Graduation Rates Factor into the Cost
Graduation rates look at how long it takes students to graduate with 100% of normal time or within 150% of normal time. For four-year schools, it tracks the percentage of students who graduate in four years and in six years. For two-year schools, it tracks the percentage that graduate in two years and in three years.
When calculating the cost of your degree, look up your college’s graduation rate. If the graduation rate is high, you will likely graduate on time or within 150% of the time. If it is low, you may take much longer to finish and pay a whole lot more.
Graduation Rates for Bachelor’s Degree Students
It makes sense to assume that your bachelor’s degree will take four years to complete. However, for most students, that is not the case. A huge trend for full-time bachelor’s degree students is taking around six years to graduate. In fact, the government actually considers graduating with your Bachelor’s in six years as graduating on time. For students who take this long to graduate, they end up paying over 50% more than they anticipated for their degree.
Graduation rates vary greatly by college, but looking at the average graduation rates for full-time students at four-year schools can give you an idea.
|Institution Type||Four-Year Graduation Rate||Six-Year Graduation Rate|
|Four-Year Private Institution||53%||65.6%|
|Four-Year Public Institution||35%||58.6%|
The most tracked graduation rates for two-year colleges reflect the percentage of students who finish within three years. At a two-year private college, the average graduation rate is 55.7%. At a two-year public college, it is only a mere 21.9%. To increase your odds of graduating on time, go into community college with a plan. This will make your overall cost of your associate’s degree much lower.
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Average Student Debt Load for College Graduates
To understand the average cost of college in 2018 fully, you need to factor in the average debt load. You are not done paying for college the day you earn your degree. Most students continue paying the cost of college for 21 years after graduation.
Associate’s Degree Student Loan Debt
At public two-year colleges, students have a debt load of around $7,000 upon graduation. Only 9% of graduates leave with over $20,000 in debt. In 2012, roughly 59% of associate degree recipients did not borrow anything. For those who do borrow, around 19% default on their loans—over double the default rate for bachelor’s degree holders.
Bachelor’s Degree Debt Load
The average bachelor’s degree recipient in 2015 graduated with $30,100 in student loan debt. Graduates’ student debt load is $32,300 for private institutions and $25,550 for public institutions. Nearly 20% of these individuals borrowed private loans, which incur higher interest rates.
Master’s Degree Debt Load
Bachelor’s degree seekers borrow a lot of money, but graduate students borrow three times as much. In 2015-2016, master’s students borrowed an average of $18,210 as compared to an undergrad’s $5,460. After their two to five years in graduate school, a Master’s degree recipient leaves with an average of $51,000 in student debt. With debt that high, master’s degree holders shoulder roughly 38% of the nation’s $1.4 trillion student debt load. M.S, MBA, education, M.A., medicine, and law degrees make up around 61.8% of graduate student loan debt.
The Opportunity Cost of College
Along with taking on loads of debt, college students also miss out on the money they could have earned if they were not in school. As of 2017, master’s students forgo an average of $49,785 per year—the amount their bachelor-degree holding peers earn on average. Undergraduate students lose out on $49,000 for a four-year program and $20,000 for a two-year program. On average, it takes bachelor’s students 12 years until they recoup the costs of tuition plus these lost wages. By age 34, most students will have finally caught up to their peers.
When considering the cost of college in 2018, factor in more than just the average cost of college tuition and living expenses. Things like graduation rates, debt load, and other related expenses may have more impact than you think
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Ascent: Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 6/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.