How Do I Compare College Costs?

A number of factors could alter the cost of attending college in your favor. Read on to learn about some ways to minimize the price of your higher education.

What's in a College Name?

Yes, it would be wonderful to have a diploma hanging over your desk showing that you'd graduated from a world-renowned law school. Does it mean you learned more about law because you went to an Ivy League school? Doing a little research on schools that have your dream major can turn up less expensive schools with exceptional faculties and top-notch learning facilities.

One way to do this is through the U.S. Department of Education's College Navigator (nces.ed.gov). This search engine lets you plug in criteria like desired majors, locations and tuition ceilings. From there, you can examine the programs within various schools to find one that may suit your needs just as well as a pricier university.

Important Facts About College Costs (average, per year, 2016)

Public 4-year in-state tuition $9,139
Public 4-year out-of-state tuition $22,958
Private 4-year tuition $31,231
Other Expenses Room/board, personal expenses, transportation, and books/materials

Source: The College Board

Location! Location! Location!

Where you go to school can affect your daily expenses in unexpected ways. Trying to compare the cost of various expenses from state to state can be tedious; however, tools are available that allow you to compare the costs at different schools. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers financial aid and college cost comparisons on its website (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college/compare-financial-aid-and-college-cost/). You can compare up to three schools using this tool or compare two schools to the national averages.

A similar tool is also available on the College Board website (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/compare-colleges). While both these tools only allow you to enter three schools at a time, they do give you a quick view of costs for schools in different states. You might also consider public assistance programs for college students, such as free or discounted public transportation during the months when school is in session.

In Tuition

By now you may have narrowed your search to a few different schools, and it's time to head back to College Navigator. This search engine has another feature that allows you to pull up side-by-side school comparisons. By adding schools to a personalized 'favorites' section, you can generate a report that will show you the differences in the costs of things like living on or off campus. It will also compare things like application fees, average amounts of student aid received and tuition differences for in-state vs. out-of-state students.

Dollars to Details

Last but not least, you should check with each school for smaller details like meal plans and campus housing requirements. Admissions departments offer cost breakdowns, but you may have to ask the school directly or read through a school catalog to find out if you're required to live on campus or to subscribe to a meal plan. Checking individual school payment plans may give you such options as paying for the entire baccalaureate education up front to avoid tuition increases later.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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