How Can I Compare College Tuition Prices?

Tuition costs are as varied as the institutes of higher learning, and since most colleges boast comprehensive websites, information regarding their tuition can be accessed online. Read on to learn more about college tuition, factors that affect the cost of attendance, and how you can find a high-value school.

Explore Average Tuition Prices

The type of college you choose has a big impact on tuition. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the median cost of tuition and fees at 4-year, private not-for-profit institutions was $27,100 in 2010-2011. Meanwhile, the median tuition and fees at public, 4-year institutions was $6,780 that year, according to NCES data. NCES figures from 2010-2011 also show that 2-year, public institutions, often referred to as community colleges, had a median tuition and fee cost of $2,537. Also remember to factor in room and board, meals, books and school supplies, transportation and personal expenses like laundry and cell phone usage - these also vary greatly by school.

Investigate In-Residence Tuition

Public 2-year and 4-year colleges are typically affiliated with and partially funded by either the state where they are located or a local county, so there may be significant tuition and fee savings if you attend one of these schools within your own area. Also, if you go to a local school, you may be able to skip the room and board costs by living at home.

Look at Best Value Rankings

You may also want to consider looking at educational, news and personal finance websites that regularly rate colleges throughout the nation, judging them particularly on value. Kiplinger, U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review are three such organizations that issue special reports on the best value schools, both public and private. Their rankings typically look beyond tuition costs and factor in average SAT scores, enrollment, faculty-to-student ratios, graduation rates and average post-graduate debt.

Visit Tuition Comparison Websites

There are several websites available that allow you to search for and compare schools by their tuition and fees. The NCES website, for example, allows you to search all accredited schools in the U.S. by state, enrollment, published tuition, student aid options and graduation rate. The College Board website is also a great source for you to find out information on tuition prices, scholarships, financial aid and student loans. Additionally, this site features a net price calculator that can figure out tuition costs after factoring in other out of pocket expenses such as room and board and meal plans. While the website's listing of colleges is somewhat limited, it can give you a good idea of net costs at other schools comparable to ones on the site.

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