The Actual Cost of College

Is the Overall Cost Less than the Sticker Price?

Well, for roughly half of this country’s college students, the final price tag does end up being less

That’s because financial offsets such as scholarships, grants, loans, and college funding programs can knock off significant costs from the overall price tag.

According to Anne Sturtevant (director of enrollment services at The College Board, a nonprofit association of schools that tracks college costs), “So many families just assume they’re never going to be able to afford a certain type of college.” (source:

So, what is it exactly that determines what families end up paying?

Here’s a quick breakdown…

College: The Initial Price Tag

Private colleges are — for the most part – the most expensive 4-year schools, with an average annual sticker price of $35,600 (encompassing tuition, room and board).

On the public college side, the average cost for out-of-state students is $26,700, and $15,200 for in-state students.

Also, consider any financial aid packages. Last year, the average amount in aid that full-time undergraduates received was $10,000… factoring in a combination of grants, scholarships, federal loans and work study.

Be sure to keep in mind that financial aid packages can vary from school to school, depending on a variety of factors specific to the college.

Grants & Scholarships

On average, grants and scholarships accounted for about half the aid given to students last year, or about $5,000 per student.

The amount awarded by the federal government is based on a formula that measures each family’s specific economic situation.

When it comes to Pell grants, families can get up to a maximum $5,550 a year. (Note: The maximum grant amount will rise to $5,975 between 2013 and 2017.) And the federal grants students are entitled to will not change, no matter which school they attend.

Additionally, most colleges offer their own grants or scholarships for which students can apply.

(Follow this link to learn about 6 Scholarship Scams to avoid at all costs.)

Next: Federal Loans

Of course you don’t want any loans if you don’t need them. But keep in mind federal loans carry lower interest rates than private loans.

As for federal loan eligibility, a formula factors the family’s/student’s income against their current debt.

Key new points:

Beginning in 2014, payments for new loans will carry a maximum cap of 10 percent of income.

As part of the same program, any leftover debt beyond 25 years will be forgiven (just 10 years for public service workers).


Scott Weingold

Related Articles:

How to Get Into an Elite Private College for less than a State School

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 1 – Scholarships

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 2 – Strategies

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.