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Everything Parents Need To Know About College Funding

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As a parent of a high school student, paying for college is likely one of your top priorities. And, with college costs on the rise every year, it's essential to start planning and saving for your child's education as early as possible.

In this blog post, we will break down the cost of college into tuition and fees, housing, books and supplies, college expenses, and transportation. We will also explore why tuition varies so much from school to school and provide some tips on ways to reduce college costs.

So, whether you're looking at private or public schools or wondering if a two-year college is right for your child, read on for all the information you need for college funding!

College Cost Breakdown

The average cost of one year of college, including tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies, college expenses, and transportation, is about:
  • $32,730 for in-state public colleges
  • $49,890 for out-of-state public colleges
  • $57,020 for private colleges
Here is a more detailed breakdown of college costs:

a. Tuition and Fees

According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2021–2022 school year was $38,070 at private colleges, $27,560 for out-of-state public colleges, and $10,740 for in-state public colleges.

Note: Tuition includes academic instruction, while fees are additional charges for services like student activities, technology, and healthcare.

This rate skews higher for private colleges because they don't receive government funding, while public colleges do. Out-of-state public college students also tend to pay higher tuition rates than in-state students because they are not considered residents of the state where the school is located.

b. Housing

The cost of housing can vary greatly depending on whether you choose to live on campus or off campus, as well as the school's location.

According to The College Board, the average cost of room and board (housing and food) for the 2019–2020 school year was:
  • $11,500 for public colleges (living on campus)
  • $12,990 for private colleges (living on campus)
  • $12,080 for public colleges (living off campus)
  • $14,529 for private colleges (living off campus)
As you can see, room and board costs are slightly higher at private colleges than at public colleges. Additionally, living off campus tends to be more expensive than living on campus at both public and private colleges.

c. Books and Supplies

In addition to tuition and housing for college, students must invest in books and supplies.

The average cost of books and supplies for the 2017–2018 school year was $1,440 at private colleges, $1,340 for out-of-state public colleges, and $1,200 for in-state public colleges.

But this average is steadily declining, thanks to the growing popularity of e-books and online course materials. In fact, according to a 2019 study on PRNewswire, the cost of college textbooks has decreased by 26% since 2016.

d. Personal Expenses and Transportation

Finally, you should factor in college expenses and transportation when budgeting.

The average cost of personal expenses (clothing, laundry, recreation, etc.) for the 2017–2018 school year was $2,800 at private colleges, $2,600 for out-of-state public colleges, and $2,400 for in-state public colleges.

And the average cost of transportation (car expenses, gas, public transportation, etc.) for the 2017–2018 school year was $950 at private colleges and $850 for public colleges.

Remember that these are just national averages, and your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your circumstances.

Why Does Tuition Vary So Much?

Several factors contribute to the wide range of college costs. One of the most significant factors is whether a school is private or public.

Private schools: Private colleges and universities are typically more expensive than public ones due to their smaller class sizes, ability to offer more scholarships, and higher-quality facilities and teachers. Also, they don't receive government college funding. Instead, they rely on private donors, endowments, and tuition to cover their operating costs. Alumni pass through the college, invest or leave money to the college in their wills, which also contribute to these funds.

Public schools: Public colleges and universities are usually less expensive than private ones because state or local governments subsidize them through federal college funding sources like the FAFSA. In addition, public schools typically have larger class sizes, which helps keep costs down. Also, like private universities, alumni from the college invest or leave money to the college in their wills, which can also contribute to these funds.

Another factor contributing to the cost of college is the school's location. Schools in urban areas are more expensive than in rural ones because of the higher cost of living in cities.

Ways To Lower College Costs

Whether your child is looking at private or public schools, there are several ways to reduce the cost of college.

One way to reduce college expenses is to be wise about where you live. It usually costs less to live on campus but if you can split an apartment or house off campus with some roommates it might be cheaper than living in the dorm. This may not be an option if you're attending a school in a rural area though so it’s important to examine all your options. Picking a college or university that is close so you can live at home is also an option to save some money.

Textbooks can be really expensive. So before you buy brand new textbooks at the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or the university library. Renting from sites like or buying used textbooks on Amazon or from the campus bookstore is also an option. 

Another way to lower college costs is to choose the school that offers the most financial aid. This is often a public school, but private schools may also offer need-based aid or merit-based scholarships. Also explore any local scholarship opportunities. Lots of local businesses and organizations offer scholarships to kids in their area.

Another way to reduce the cost of college is to consider a two-year college. Two-year colleges typically have lower tuition rates than four-year ones, and you can often transfer credits to a four-year school after completing your associate's degree.


College funding can be daunting, but there are varying ways to reduce the costs. For instance, private schools are more expensive than public ones, but public schools often offer more financial aid. Two-year schools also typically have lower tuition rates than four-year ones. By considering your options, you can find a college that fits your budget.

To invest in their college fund from their early days, see our detailed guide on everything you need for an air-tight college savings plan. You can also leverage the equity in your home with a HELOC to finance their tuition.
Whether you're looking for a loan to help pay for your child’s education outright or want to take advantage of our savings options, we can work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.

Contact us today to learn more about our college funding options.