Average Cost of College in America

Average Cost of College in America

Our researchers found that the average cost of college for the 2017–2018 school year was $20,770 for public schools (in-state) and $46,950 for nonprofit private schools, only including tuition, fees, and room and board. Each year, school costs have continued to increase, even accounting for inflation. We took a look at higher education data from the College Board to provide a deeper understanding of the costs and the differences between states, school types and degrees.

Average Cost of College Statistics and Key Findings

  • Average Total Cost of Public Colleges: $25,290 (in-state) $40,940 (out-of-state)
  • Average Total Cost of Private Colleges: $50,900
  • More than 19.9 million students are projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018, with around 6.7 million going to two-year institutions and 13.3 million going to four-year institutions.
  • The majority of students pay between $6,000 and $15,000 in tuition for both public and private schools in the United States.
  • New England has the highest tuition cost for both two-year and four-year public schools, with an average of $5,370 and $12,990, respectively.

A Breakdown of the Average Costs of College

To give you a quick overview of the costs for a full year of college at a four-year public and private nonprofit college, we've included a breakdown of all costs associated with going to college. This includes the average college tuition cost, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses.

Public two-year (in-district)
Public four-year (in-state)
Public four-year (out-of-state)
Private four-year
Room and board$8,400$10,800$10,800$12,210
Books and supplies$1,420$1,250$1,250$1,220
Other expenses$2,410$2,100$2,100$1,700
Total cost$17,580$25,290$40,940$50,900

Community colleges are primarily two-year public institutions but some schools also award four-year degrees and there are private community colleges. According to Community College Review, the average cost of community college is $4,864 (in-state) and $8,622 (out-of-state) per year for public community colleges. For private community colleges, the average tuition is around $15,460 per year.

Average Cost of College by Region

The average tuition cost in each region for two-year and four-year schools in the United States varied minimally. However, New England had both the highest in-district and in-state average tuition costs, not including room and board, for both two-year and four-year public colleges. In contrast, the South had the lowest public four-year tuition at $9,290, while the West had the lowest average tuition for public two-year schools at $2,380.

Chart Showing Average Cost of College by Region

According to data from the College Board, western states had the highest public two-year and four-year tuition increase over 10 years, increasing 62% and 60%, respectively. Meanwhile, public two-year and four-year colleges in the Midwest only increased by 22% and 21% within the past 10 years. Keep in mind that the West is home to some of the top public schools in the country, namely the University of California system.

Average Cost of College by State

The average cost of public colleges in the United States is $9,970 for in-state tuition and $25,620 for out-of-state tuition, not including room and board. According to the data, New Hampshire has the highest in-state tuition of $16,070, which is around $3,500 more than South Dakota's out-of-state tuition, $12,480. Wyoming has the lowest in-state tuition, costing only $5,220. In contrast, the highest out-of-state tuition and the most expensive average tuition on the list was from Vermont, with a price tag of $38,990.

In-state tuition
Out-of-state tuition
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Average Cost of College by Degree Type

The average cost of college for public colleges and universities is similar for bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. The greatest differences lie in private nonprofit schools, which illustrates how costly a doctoral degree is compared to a master's and bachelor's.

Chart Showing Average Cost of College by Degree

Average Cost of College by Flagship University

University of Wyoming had the lowest in-state tuition while University of South Dakota had the lowest out-of-state tuition, which lines up with the state rankings. Unlike the state rankings, Pennsylvania State University had the highest in-state tuition at $18,436, with the University of New Hampshire ranking as a close second. And the University of Michigan had the most expensive out-of-state tuition out of all the flagship universities.

Flagship university
In-state tuition
Out-of-state tuition
University of Alaska Fairbanks$7,518$22,908
University of Alabama$10,780$28,100
University of Arkansas$9,062$24,308
University of Arizona$11,877$35,307
University of California: Berkeley$13,928$41,942
University of Colorado at Boulder$12,086$36,220
University of Connecticut$14,880$36,948
University of Delaware$13,160$33,150
University of Florida$6,381$28,658
University of Georgia$11,818$30,392
University of Hawaii at Manoa$11,732$33,764
University of Iowa$8,964$30,608
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Distribution of Students by Tuition

The majority of four-year undergraduate students are paying between $6,000 and $15,000 for tuition and fees with a median of $12,090. However, as we look deeper into the data, mostly public college students pay these costs, while private nonprofit students are more spread out near the higher costs.

Chart Showing Distribution of Student by Tuition and Fees

Public four-year institutions have a median tuition cost of $10,270, while private nonprofit four-year schools have a median that is over three times that amount at $35,260. The majority of students at private nonprofit four-year schools are paying roughly between $33,000 and $51,000.

Published tuition and fees
Private and Public
Under $6,0002.60%3.10%2.80%
$6,000 to $8,99935.30%4.70%25.60%
$9,000 to $11,99929.80%2.50%21.10%
$12,000 to $14,99914.80%1.50%10.60%
$15,000 to $17,9994.10%2.60%3.60%
$18,000 to $20,9992.70%2.90%2.80%
$21,000 to $23,9992.40%3.50%2.80%
$24,000 to $26,9991.70%6.80%3.30%
$27,000 to $29,9992.10%7.80%3.90%
$30,000 to $32,9991.20%9.20%3.70%
$33,000 to $35,9992.00%6.70%3.50%
$36,000 to $38,9990.40%7.80%2.70%
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How Have Average College Costs in America Changed Over the Years?

In only 40 years, the average cost of college, including tuition and room and board, has increased over 150% for both public and private four-year colleges. Between 1977 and 1978, the average cost of a four-year degree from a public school was $8,180, while the cost for a nonprofit private school was $17,010. The cost is now more than twice that amount and is moving up to three times that cost.

Chart Showing Average Cost of College Over the Years


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