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The Cost

Two-Year or Four-Year School?

First, determine the cost of college so you know what you need to save. The total cost of college includes tuition, room and board, books, and other living expenses. If you choose a public school, you may be able to pay for college by using your cash-flow resources and developing a monthly investment program. If you choose a private college, you may have to develop a monthly investment program plus take out loans, apply for financial aid and use other resources.

One choice for you and your child to make is whether he or she will go to a two-year or four-year school; two-year schools have certain advantages in terms of cost and entrance requirements. There are several college planning services that you and your child may want to consult. In addition, don't forget to factor in inflation in your financial planning: the cost of college goes up, just like the cost of everything else.

Cost isn't your only consideration. Choosing a school that makes sense for your child is very important.

Two-year schools, or community colleges, may be a good place to start. Typically, the entrance requirements are not as strict as four-year schools, so if your child's academic record is not the greatest, this is his or her chance to start in a college. If your child goes to a two-year school and develops a good academic track record, there may be a higher probability of transferring to the school of first choice at the end of the two years. Typically, two-year schools are also less expensive.

As you can see from the following chart, the average cost at public colleges is approximately $25,290 and at private college, $50,900. Private schools can be two to three times as expensive as public schools.

Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets, 2017-2018
(Enrollment Weighted) *

 

Four-Year School

Two-Year School
 

Private

Public (out-of-state)

Public (in-state)

Public

Tuition & Fees

34,740

$25,620 

$9,970

$3,570

Books & Supplies

$1,220

$1,250

$1,250

$1,420

Room & Board

$12,210

$10,800

$10,800

$8,400

Transportation

$1,030

$1,170

$1,170

$1,780

Other Costs

$1,700

$2,100

$2,100

$2,410

Total

$50,900

$40,940

$25,290

$17,580

* These are enrollment-weighted averages, intended to reflect the average costs that students face in various types of institutions.

Source: The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges

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