May 19, 2021 By College Ave Student Loans

Estimating the True Cost of College in 2021

Estimating the True Cost of College in 2021

The average cost of college has increased over the years and has caused people to contemplate how they are going to pay for college and if the increase in cost is worth the return. For example, in 2020-2021, the average cost of college tuition was $10,560 for public four-year, in-state schools and $27,020 for public four-year, out-of-state schools. What many don’t realize is that tuition isn’t the only cost to consider when attending college. Additional college expenses can add up when calculating the total cost of college in 2021.

The following guide will help you understand the major costs associated with paying for college in 2021:

Average College Tuition & Costs 2020-2021

To understand the average college tuition and costs for 2020-2021, it’s important to highlight not only tuition, but room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other related college expenses.

The following statistics represent the true cost of college for different school types:

It’s also important to note that while this is the average cost nationwide, the cost will also vary by state and this can vary widely. For example, if you’re attending a college in Vermont and you’re paying out-of-state tuition, the average cost for just the tuition is $41,610.

Factors in Current Cost of College

As noted, there’s more to the cost of college than just tuition. Students have to pay for books and supplies, room and board, transportation, food, and much more. These factors vary in price from state to state, but all have continued to increase over the years.

Difference Between Tuition and Fees

Before students attend college, they might not be aware of the difference between tuition and fees.

The cost of tuition is a charge directly from the school for teaching. This is usually the most expensive component for attending college. However, other fees and expenses can add up quickly.

Fees vary from school to school, and they are additional charges on top of the tuition. For example, a school may have a health clinic fee, gym fee, communication fee, technology fee, athletic fee, among others.

Cost of Living Expenses

Beyond tuition and fees, your living expenses in college add to the overall cost of college. This includes books and school supplies, housing and transportation and other miscellaneous living costs such as personal hygiene items, linens, cooking supplies, and basic necessities.

Books and School Supplies

Whether the school is public, private, in-state, or out-of-state, the textbook and school supply costs are all relatively the same. Books and supplies are estimated to cost $1,240 per year for private colleges and $1,240 for in-state and out-of-state colleges.


A factor that practically doubles the cost of college is housing. Room and board costs about $11,620 for public, four-year schools. Meanwhile, private colleges are more expensive, with an average cost of $13,120 for room and board.


In 2020 the average cost of travel and other related expenses was $3,400 at a public, four-year, in-state institution.

Commuting vs. on Campus

Commuters spend less than people who live on campus because they do not incur room and board or housing expenses. However, commuters still have expenses to consider. Beyond the cost of tuition and fees associated with driving to and from campus, commuters have to budget for gas, car insurance and maintenance, parking and their housing expenses if they live off-campus on their own.

Other Unexpected Costs Associated with College

There are other expenses that are associated with college that take many college students by surprise. Some of these include fees for bills, furniture, printing supplies, extracurricular activities, bus passes, and more.

Cost of College Trends

Today, the cost of college is at its highest, as costs have steadily increased over the last 50 years.

Factors for Rise

The main reason the cost of college has increased is because of demand, more financial aid, less state funding, increasing student services, and other factors.

Implications of the High Cost of College

The high cost of college can have a huge impact on students. Because of the large investment they are making, some graduates may delay buying a home, saving for retirement or starting a small business.

Types of Degrees and Schools

Two other major factors that influence tuition are the types of degrees earned, as well as the types of schools that students attend. For example, the cost of attending an Ivy League school would typically be much higher than attending a community college, and someone earning a medical degree will usually spend much more on tuition than someone earning a bachelor’s degree.

How Financial Aid Impacts College Cost

An important factor to consider is the potential for financial aid. No matter the circumstances, students should apply for financial aid, which can possibly help them with their college costs.

Understanding the difference between the sticker price and the net price
In simple terms, net price is what you pay after financial aid is factored in, while the sticker price is the cost before any financial aid comes into the picture. The United States Department of Education Scorecard gives detailed information on the net price of specific schools, allowing prospective students to make more informed decisions.


The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that college students should always complete to see if they’re eligible for school, state and federal financial aid to cover all or a portion of their college expenses.


A grant is a state or federal program offered to provide college funding for students. For example, Say Yes Buffalo is a grant program that covers tuition for students who attend Buffalo public schools. Grants are considered free money and typically does not have to be repaid.


A scholarship is a monetary award given to a student to help pay for college. Scholarship is free money and does not need to be repaid

For example, College Ave offers a $1,000 monthly scholarship that any student can apply for.

How Student Loans Impact Cost of College

Student loans often play a part in financing college costs. You’ll want to consider a few different things before choosing a student loan.

Federal vs. Private

There are two types of student loans: federal and private. You’ll likely use a mix of both private and federal student loans to pay for college. You’ll receive federal loans by filling out the FAFSA. For some students, the amount of federal aid offered may not be enough to cover all their college expenses. A private student loan can help to bridge that gap; some students find that taking out a private student loan from private lenders like College Ave, allows them to pay for their remaining college costs.

The cost of borrowing

Interest rates vary based on the type of loan you take out. With private loans, you may have a more favorable interest rate if you have good credit. Before agreeing to borrow a specified amount of money through a student loan, it is important to know just how much the loan will cost you over time, which is based on the interest rate you’re paying.

Calculate your costs

Our student loan calculator is an easy to use tool that allows borrowers to calculate just how much they’ll be spending based on the amount they borrow, the loan term, interest rate, years remaining in school, and monthly payments that are made while in school.

Value of College Degree

The reality is that people with college degrees, on average, are more financially stable than those without them. For example, the average worker with just a high school diploma earns $30,500 annually, whereas the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns $44,000 annually. The cost of college should be weighed against the value of what you’re getting in return. After all, it is an investment in your future.
Interesting College Degree Facts and Statistics

A college degree has three important factors to consider: education, earning potential, and career opportunities.

Earning Potential

On average, college graduates are twice as likely to make an additional $1 million in earnings.

Career opportunities

College graduates are more likely to gain an advantage in their careers than people without degrees. According to Glassdoor, the five highest-paying college majors include

1. Computer Science
Medium Base Salary: $70,000

2. Electrical Engineering
Medium Base Salary: $68,438

3. Mechanical Engineering
Medium Base Salary: $68,000

4. Chemical Engineering
Medium Base Salary: $65,000

5. Industrial Engineering
Medium Base Salary: $64,381

Read More: 10 of the Highest Paying College Majors

There are many different factors to consider when calculating the true cost of college. For many students, it can be easy to overlook some of these expenses, and many of these unanticipated costs often take college students by surprise. Fortunately, students have several options when it comes to paying for college. With a mix of financial aid, grants, scholarships, federal and private student loans, students can pursue higher education and work towards their career goals.

When financial aid and federal loans aren’t enough to cover your college expenses, private student loans are an option students can use to cover any other remaining college expenses that they may have.

If you’re interested in taking out a private student loan to help pay for college, you can apply with College Ave in 3 minutes and receive an instant credit decision.