How Much Does College Really Cost?

January 16, 2020

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Title:  What Is the Price of College? Total, Net, and Out-of-Pocket Prices in 2015-16

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Authors: Courtney A. Moore, Albert Y. Liu, Catharine Warner-Griffin, Jackson Miller

A report recently published by National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) documents the price of attending college in the 2015-16 academic year. The report also examines how the cost of college attendance varied across institutions and affected prospective students from different backgrounds.

The key findings include:

  • Cost of attendance varied greatly across institution types. The average cost of attendance in 2015-16, including tuition and fees, and non-tuition expenses, was highest at private nonprofit four-year institutions ($48,000) and lowest at public two-year institutions ($16,100). The average tuition at public 2-year institutions ($3,800) was less than one-third of the tuition at public four-year institutions ($11,800) and one-fourth of the tuition at for-profit institutions ($17,600).
  • Type and availability of financial aid depended on institution type. A combination of grants and loans was the most common form of aid at all types of institutions except for public two-year institutions, where more than half (51 percent) of the financial aid consisted of grants only. For-profit schools had the highest percentage of students with loans (74 percent).
  • Students’ socioeconomic backgrounds and dependency status affected their eventual out-of-pocket expenses. Among dependent students, the average net price of attendance after grants was lower for students from low-income families than their peers from higher-income families. However, independent students followed a different pattern. Among independent students at private nonprofit four-year institutions, the lowest-income students had the highest average net price after grants.

For more details, click here to read the full report.

—Yuan He

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