What Is the Average Cost For Four Years of College?

The average cost for four years of college in the United States is estimated at $35,720. Private colleges the average tuition is $37,200 per year. The typical cost for four years of a college education is no doubt expensive. Add the cost to live during the college years and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the student loan debt in America is now approaching $1.7 trillion.

When referring to the average cost of a college education for four years most people would associate this with earning a Bachelor’s degree. However, the truth is statistics show going to college for a “four-year degree” can quickly turn into 6 or more years. Changing majors or taking a little time off can increase the costs of higher education and even the possibility of never reaching graduation.

Four-year public college tuition has increased 571% since the late 1980’s. Even taking inflation into consideration, the increase has been 213%. The average increase for college today is around 8% per year. The result is the cost for four years of college doubling about every nine years.

The average cost of a four-year college education is likely not going to decrease anytime soon. Moreover, it may just keep increasing at the alarming rate it historically has. Why is the cost so high for college? How does America compare in the price for a college education to other places around the world?

4 Years of College and the Average Costs Compared

The average in-state student going to a public 4-year college in the U.S. spends approximately $25,864 per year, according to educationdata.org. Although the tuition alone averages about $9,580, the real cost that adds up is the expense to live during college. The additional average expense of $16,284 for the cost of living brings the total to over 25k each year.

Looking at the average cost for 4-years of an in-state college education it looks like a deal compared to learning at a private university. College students who attend a private non-profit school can expect to pay $37,200 for tuition and a total cost with living on an average of $53,949 each year. This brings the average cost for four years at a private university to over $200,000.

Four years of college in the 1989-1990 academic year was much different than it is today. Public 4-year college tuition was around $1,730 on average while a private university cost about $17,860. The average pricing for private universities has done a little better compared to public schools with an increase of 129% over the last three decades. Just looking at tuition alone the cost for the average 4-years of college in a public school today is a difference of over $7000 each year compared to a few decades ago.

Average Cost of College 2021

How Much Does College Cost Outside the United States?

The United States spends more money on college when compared to almost every other country, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Development. Free education in other parts of the world is not uncommon. Out of twenty-four countries that do provide a college education at no cost sixteen of them are in Europe. According to studentloanhero.com, the cost of college tuition costs nothing in Germany while France is just $217 for higher education.

The tuition cost for America’s close neighbor in Canada costs only about $4,939 to go to college. The United Kingdom is the only other country that has a higher tuition cost than the United States at an average of $12,414. The U.K does struggle with student loan debt just like the United States. However, the difference is their student loan debt is immediately put into an income-based repayment structure. Furthermore, the U.K government will forgive any student debt that remains after 30 years.

Why Is College So Expensive in America?

Although some of the top-ranked colleges in the world are in the United States, this isn’t the only reason why higher education in America is so expensive. When looking at the total overall price of college the U.S. almost always costs more in comparison to other parts of the world. This is because American college students tend to live away from home during college more often than students in other countries. Living expenses during college can easily cost much more than just tuition and books.

The cost of a college education in America is also high due to the competition for students. Look at many colleges and their campus living arrangements in the U.S. today. They are much more extravagant than they were a few decades ago. Luxury dorm living with amenities costs money and this is passed onto the people that attend the college of their choice. Universities in the U.S and parents are telling young adults they deserve the “college experience.” People are willing to pay for this with decades of student loan debt. Colleges in America are more than willing to accommodate this.

Demand is certainly a reason college is so costly in the U.S. It’s not just because a lot of the top-ranked schools are here but all young adults have been told for decades now that a college education is the only path to success. Because more people have chosen higher education as a path following high school, the demand just keeps getting bigger for a college education. Universities have had a need to grow and this includes higher prices.

Easy access to student funding is probably one of the largest reasons the cost for a college degree in America has gotten out of control. There is a correlation between funding and the price colleges charge for tuition. It seems when the amount of federal student loan money that can be borrowed is raised the universities turn around and increase their costs to accommodate this. The result is why the student loan debt in America is now estimated at around $1.6 trillion.

Is the Cost of a College Education Going to Decrease Anytime Soon?

If you are looking for the high price of college to decline in America anytime soon, don’t rely on it. The higher education system does not have an interest in making college more affordable. The model they seem to be practicing is continually charging more money for tuition. If this results in fewer students eventually, they will just charge even more. The result will be the same money for universities with fewer students or more of these students in greater debt.

The historical cost of a college education in the U.S. has seen tuition rise at about twice the rate of inflation. This means the price of college doubles about every 9 years. This is leaving the average student loan repayment for a bachelor’s degree now taking just over 21.1 years to pay off. Although some people might be waiting for a government bailout with student loan debt forgiveness or free college, don’t look for Washington to make this a reality anytime soon. Free college and student loan forgiveness might sound like a great idea but politicians know deep down it would cost too much money. This includes representatives on both sides of the aisle.

Universities and the education system in America have no intent on making it more affordable. If anything, free would just become more expensive and every tax payor would need to pick up the cost.

Final Word

The average cost of a college education in America at over $25,000 per year is expensive. This is particularly the case when compared to other countries around the world which many of them offer a free college education. Even though the U.S. has some of the top-ranked universities, the high cost of a college education today with decades of student loan debt is likely not as valuable as it was decades ago. This is due to the growing amount of student debt people are carrying and the employment prospects many of them have following graduation.

Although most federal student loan repayment plans are stated on a ten-year schedule, the truth today is the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree is now taking over 20 years to pay off the money they borrowed. Federal student loans are easy to access and colleges know this. Their interest is not only in providing education but also to bring in money. This even includes the so-called “non-profit” schools.

The problem with four years of college in America is not that it costs money but how much money it now costs. Furthermore, an even larger issue is how much a college education is likely to cost in the future.

Don’t look for the cost of a college education to decrease anytime soon in the U.S. The average cost of four years is only going to get much larger.

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