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
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.
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