How Expensive is it to Go to College?

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Is going to college expensive? The short and obvious answer: HELL YES it is expensive! Very much so. Although there are various routes that any potential college goer can take to undercut the large bill that comes at the cost of admission (like a scholarship), the bottom line of a college education bill will always be staggeringly high. A question though, why is it so expensive to go to college, and how can we make a higher education more affordable?

As a labeled “millennial”, the people of my parents and grandparents age all attended colleges that today we would call “prestigious” and “fiercely competitive”, and they all paid a fraction of a fraction of what we would pay to attend these schools today. They also were accepted almost as easy as it would be to just sign their name onto a clipboard, so there is also the fact that getting into college was just that much less competitive then as compared to now.

So much has happened to the college and university system since our parents and grandparents attended that attribute to the level of difficulty it is now to get into schools, let alone pay for them. The biggest culprit that is said to be reason for the price increase is that the state funding was said to have been “cut”, hence the need to make up for the missing funds elsewhere. However, the real reason that the cost to go to college by major universities has skyrocketed so much is simply because they, the colleges and universities, want these prices to be raised. They do so because they can.

Despite the inflating rates of college attendance prices, below are some options to consider that can cut down the already sky-high tuition costs.


Time and Space.

There are numerous ways to cut corners as you travel throughout your college experience, with each corner cut resulting in a pretty significant shaving off of the price tag. There are two significant factors that contribute to the college attendance sticker price and that is where and what college it is and how long you attend and stay there.

  • College location.

The “where and what college it is” is significant because it can either double or even triple the price of your education, or save you a huge chunk off of the sticker price. For example, if the college you have your eye set on is located out of the state that you currently have residence in, that right there is a significant bumping up in pricing. If the college you have your eye on is public or private, a state school or university, that also has significant weight on the bill.  This break down by displays the numbers of what the differences look like, with an in-state school tuition costing around $9,410 being compared to an out-of-state school costing more than double at about $23,893. Like they say in real estate: Location, location, location.

If you are planning on attending an out of state college, then don’t forget all the charges and fees that apply: room and board, meals, travel costs to get back home on the holidays and everywhere else, and of course, books (you’ll have to pay for books regardless of where you live, I just thought I would remind you of this painful fact).

  • Duration of study

As for how long you plan on attending the school of your choice, the time it takes you from start to finish determines how much you will have to pay. A misconception when it comes to college is that you must start and finish your education in the same place to earn a degree. This is false because it really only matters where you finish your degree.

According to the information provided by mentioned earlier, a four year education at a private university costs about $32,405. For those who can afford to send themselves or their children to a school such as this, I tip my hat to you, but what if you want that degree from that specific private university, but can’t quite afford that full-blown price tag? Consider cutting the four year tuition in half, and having them satisfy a bulk of their education requirements in an equally recognized, but much less expensive setting, and then finishing up the degree at the private university. Read on to learn how to do this.


Consider community college.

Although it may not be as glamorous as attending a university for four years straight, attending a community college to satisfy educational requirements is a great way to save a pretty huge chunk of tuition while still gaining the same educational value. In fact, many community college professors are actually the same professors who teach at the universities up the road, and even teach from the exact same lesson plans as they would to the people paying upwards of 4x’s what you are paying to learn about. Go figure.

Consider attending a community college for the first part of your higher education, and then transferring to finish up your degree at the university. Don’t worry, the diploma you receive at the end of the road will have no mention of your stay at the community college, only where you finished.


Testing out of classes.

You want to move through your education as efficiently as you can, because a misstep in planning a schedule of classes could result in you adding another pretty expensive semester to your education, around another 8-grand to be exact if you add another full time semester.

What you can do to save time if you do make a misstep, or even just want to lighten the load and shave some time off of the semester, is to test out of classes. This process of education, called “Degree by Examination” is a way that you can save time and a pretty large amount of coin by taking tests to pass classes rather than taking full semesters worth of study. Test providers such as CLEP and DSST are the most popular way to go, and administered through the same systems that provide the already familiar SAT’s that we all allegedly took in high school.


There are ways to save time, cut corners, and save a ton of money as you go about earning your degree as you go to college. The journey will be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to look. Take advantage of all the alternative methods that are out there, and don’t be afraid to take a road less traveled when it comes to getting you what you need.

Keep looking, and you may just surprise yourself with how affordable college can end up being for you.

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