The True Cost of a College Diploma

An image representing the cost of getting a college degree

The cost of a college diploma in the US appears quite high at first glance. Most countries around the world pay less for college than Americans do. According to HSBC, college students in America spend an average of $100,000 to earn a college degree. 

Should you bury your dreams of going to college if you can’t afford it? Not at all. You might be surprised to learn that a degree can be cheaper than you thought when you examine all of the options. This article will explain in detail what it costs to get a college diploma in the United States.

American University Tuition Costs

Each college’s actual costs may differ significantly from the average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of studying in a US university is $25,000 per year, while some top-tier colleges (especially non-profit private colleges) cost up to $60,000. Conversely, other colleges charge significantly less than the average. 

In search of a cheap college diploma? You should consider studying at a community college or any other public educational institution if this is the case. As state-owned institutions, these universities are operated by the state. Students from out of state usually pay a different tuition fee than in-state students.

Out-of-state students pay higher tuition fees at public universities. Overseas students and those who don’t live in the state before joining the university are subject to these fees. In contrast, private universities charge a flat fee.

Based on the College Board’s report on college pricing trends for 2021, community colleges charge an average tuition of $3,900 per year. Generally, non-profit state universities charge in-state students $10,640 and out-of-state students $28,560. Private colleges average $37,070 in tuition, compared to these figures. The Education Data Initiative reports that the average tuition at for-profit private colleges is $15,957 per year. 

A community college (also called a city college or technical college) is the cheapest place to earn a US college diploma. There are, however, no four-year degree programs offered at these two-year institutions. An associate’s degree is the equivalent of the first two years of a bachelor’s degree that can be earned at a community college. When you have an associate’s degree, you can transfer to another college to complete your bachelor’s degree. 

The total cost of a college diploma in the United States

Tuition is only one part of the cost of a college diploma. Expenses include room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and more. After adding living and personal expenses to tuition, here is a college degree budget estimate for 2021/2022: 

  • Community colleges: $18,830
  • State institutions (in-state): $27,330
  • State institutions (out-of-state): $44,150
  • Non-profit private colleges: $55,800
  • For-profit private colleges: $31,549

You can use these averages to estimate what you will likely spend on a college degree in the US. The results could, however, differ significantly based on a few factors, such as:

  • College or university you attend
  • Whether you live on campus or off
  • If you live alone, with family, or with someone who is not related to you 

The cost of some prestigious state institutions can be as high as the cost of private colleges. One such prestigious state institution is the University of Michigan. On their website, they estimate that in-state freshmen will spend $33,302 for tuition and living expenses in 2021/2022. Unlike in-state freshmen, out-of-state freshmen can expect to pay up to $74,056 in tuition. 

Additionally, students who choose to stay on campus at private non-profit colleges spend approximately $2,753 on transportation and personal expenses. On the other hand, students living off-campus with their families spend $4,120 a year. A total of $6,032 is spent on transportation and personal expenses by those who live alone or with non-family members.

The best college diplomas for your money

The cost of a college degree is quite high, as you can see. Furthermore, the costs keep rising year after year. A college diploma is still worth the cost, despite its daunting costs. Full-time employees with a degree earn 85% more on average than those with just a high school diploma. Therefore, a college diploma is an investment.

There is therefore a difference in the economic value of different types of college degrees. Considering their tuition dollar investment, what type of diploma is the best?

Payscale lists the following as the top 5 paying associate’s degrees:

  • Computer Science & Mathematics
  • Nondestructive Testing
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Software Engineering
  • Instrumentation Technology 

These majors typically earn between $45,500 and $65,300 in their early careers. In contrast, salaries at mid-career range from $95,800 to $106,000. 

The top 5 bachelor’s degrees in terms of salary are, however, as follows:

  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Operations Research & Industrial Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
  • Interaction Design
  • Public Accounting 

In the early stages of their careers, these majors can earn between $59,800 and $108,500. The salary range for mid career professionals is between $147,700 and $187,300, however. 

College Financial Aid for US Students

Since many students receive financial aid and other funding for their college degrees, the published costs of obtaining a US college diploma often differ from what students pay.

The costs of attending public universities are subsidized by local and state governments. Most prestigious public universities offer generous college funding opportunities to their students, even though they tend to be the most expensive. For students who qualify for financial aid, private colleges also provide federal funding. US universities offer financial aid to more than 80% of their students. College students have access to a variety of financial aid and funding sources, including:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Work-study schemes 
  • Assistantships

International students have many funding opportunities as well, although some are limited to American citizens. International students receive millions of dollars in funding every year from prestigious universities.

In some colleges, students are even expected to apply for funding while applying for admission. In others, funding applications are only accepted after a student has been admitted. 

Hopefully this has given you a range which you can expect to pay to get a college diploma. There may be an easier answer, though. If you check into a degree from ValidGrad, you will be able to obtain a replica degree from any university you wish for a small fraction of the cost to get a college degree. Take some time to look at all of the options available, and save your hard earned dollars. 

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