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How Much Does College Actually Cost?

Michael Perry | July 13, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: For most US students, attending college costs well over $100,000 over the span of a four-year degree. That being said, there are many factors that play into educational expenses, such as tuition, fees, rent, food, transportation, and basic living costs. As such, many US students rely on loans to pay for school. If you’re struggling to pay back your student loans, SoloSettle might be your answer.

When talking about college, one word comes to mind for most people: expensive.

If you are currently pondering whether to enroll in college or not, the key question in your mind must be - how much does it really cost? You should know that tuition and fees aren’t the only expenses that you’ll incur as a college student; there’s accommodations, books, basic living costs, and other expenses to be aware of.

In this article, we will provide you with a detailed breakdown of college expenses. Read on to learn how much it will actually cost you!

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What is the average total cost of attendance?

Before we get into detail, let’s start with some rough numbers. The cost of attendance (COA) is the general term used to define the overall cost of going to college, including tuition and fees, books, and accommodations. This is the price students pay for simply being in school, including additional personal expenses.

As of 2023, the COA in the US can be defined by the following numbers:

  • In-state students in a public 4-year institution - $26,027 per year or a cumulative COA of $104,108 over 4 years.
  • Out-of-state students in a public 4-year institution - $27,091 per year or a cumulative COA of $108,364 over 4 years.
  • Students in a private, nonprofit institution - $55,840 per year or a cumulative COA of $223,360 over 4 years.

These are the average costs of attendance for college in the US. So, to put it simply, going to school can cost you anywhere between $104,108 and $223,360 for 4 years (without factoring in the cost of expenses like groceries, utilities, and write an essay services).

That said, it’s important to note that the choice of college and program plays a huge role here. Namely, choosing a school in your state can significantly decrease the tuition cost. Also, opting for a 2-year program instead of a 4-year one can save you more than 50% on tuition and fees.

How much does college actually cost—a breakdown

As was mentioned earlier, tuition, fees, and books aren’t everything you have to pay for as a college student. Below, we will break down some of the biggest costs associated with attending college.


Traditionally, the cost of attendance only includes housing on campus. So if you decide to live outside of it, you will have to count it as an extra expense. The cost of living on campus often accumulates to $10,000+ per academic year. Therefore, it’s believed that renting outside campus is cheaper, especially if you rent an apartment together with friends.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind the extra costs, such as utilities, the Internet, and repairs. Altogether, they can quickly accumulate and bring your housing costs to par with on-campus accommodation or even make it more expensive.


Food is another big point of expenditure. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of food per month for a student is $667. This is quite a lot. However, it’s worth noting that the overall cost of home-cooked meals is significantly lower - an average of $257 per month.


Once again, if you are living on campus, you probably shouldn’t worry about this expense because getting to classes from a dorm shouldn’t cost you a penny. However, if you live at home or rent an apartment, you might have to spend quite a lot on getting to school.

According to statistics, the average transportation cost for students is $1,760 per year. This expense can vary depending on how often you use transport and whether you are using public transportation or owning a car. However, there is always an option to rent something closer to campus or use cheap means of transportation, such as a bike.

Indispensable services

Studying in college isn’t easy. Due to this reason, modern students often use a variety of different services to boost their productivity and simplify their studies. These can include academic research paper writing or tutoring services, educational software subscriptions, cloud storage services, etc. Each of these tools and services that students use on a daily basis might not cost a fortune. But together, they can accumulate into rather large sums of money per year.

Entertainment and personal expenses

Finally, there must always be some cash left for personal expenses and entertainment. This can include clothing, eating out, going to a cinema with friends, using your cell phone, etc. All these spendings are inevitable. So they should also be considered as a part of your total student costs.

Student debt can be a long-lasting consequence

From covering tuition and fees to delegating your papers to professional paper writing services, all these expenses often go far beyond students’ budgets. Most often, young adults have to work for wear and tear in school and have no time to do a full-time job, and as a result, they opt for additional sources of funding to afford their education.

While scholarships and grants are the best options out there, unfortunately, only one in eight students is awarded such financial aid. Moreover, 97% of students who earn a scholarship only receive less than $2,500. That’s why the majority of students opt for student loans. And this is one more thing worth considering when calculating the cost of college.

According to the most recent statistics, the total student debt in the United States equals $1.75 trillion, with an average of $28,950 owed per borrower.

Needless to say, graduating with a hefty debt leaves a significant print on young people’s lives. First of all, it significantly affects your financial independence and quality of life. After all, the standard payoff time for such debts is 10 years - a whole of 10 years that you will have to work hard to make fixed payments and cover interest rates.

Secondly, it’s proven that student debt also significantly affects young adults’ mental health. It puts additional pressure on you and often makes you sacrifice your dreams and ambitions for the sake of paying off the debt. It can even delay many big events in your life, such as getting married or having children.

As a result, debt can lead to severe life dissatisfaction. And this must be the highest cost of going to college. If you’ve defaulted on your student loans and find yourself struggling to pay off your student debt, SoloSuit can help.

Settle your student debt with the help of SoloSettle

Student loans may seem like the best way to fund your schooling, but you won’t feel the pain of student debt until you need to start repaying it after graduation. This is why it’s best to avoid student debt as much as possible.

If you are already struggling with student loan debt, you can find help. You may have debt collectors calling or sending letters constantly. SoloSuit can help you get rid of debt collectors and settle your student debts once and for all.

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, can assist you with negotiating a debt settlement and repayment program. Our software sends and receives settlement offers until you reach an agreement with your lender or creditor. To learn more, check out this video:

The bottom line

As you now know, attending college can really cost you a lot. But does this mean that going to college is worthless? Not at all!

Despite the rising costs of college, higher education is still a thing in today’s world. Obtaining it can mean better job perspectives and higher future earnings. However, it’s important to handle your college expenses wisely and learn the basics of budgeting and saving so that you do not fall into the trap of student debt.

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