A Guide on How to Go Back to College: Part Four (Page 2)

An Overview of Tuition Costs

Here’s an overview of the average college tuition costs for 2011-20121. Keep in mind, for most college options, even online college tuition, rates have risen over the past year, and the trend is for rates to keep rising.

4-year Public Institution

  • Average (in-state) tuition and fees: $8,244
  • Average (in-state) total charges, including tuition, fees, room, and board: $17,131
  • Average (out-of-state) tuition and fees: $20,770
  • Average (out-of-state) total charges, including tuition, fees, room, and board: $29,657

2-year Public Institution

  • Average tuition and fees: $2,963

4-year Private Nonprofit College or University

  • Average tuition and fees: $28,500
  • Average total charges, including tuition, fees, room, and board: $38,589

4-year Private For-profit College or University

  • Average tuition and fees: $14,487

Prerequisite Programs

In the Trends in College Pricing series by The College Board2, they don’t offer an average cost for tuition for 2011-12 for those institutions providing development college courses only including AP courses. These prerequisite programs allow students to take college courses and then transfer them for credit at a degree-granting institution. These types of programs can also be the best way for many students to get back into higher education with the most flexibility and least financial risk. One leading example is the first year of college program by StraighterLine. The cost of this program is $999 for 12 months access to 10 college-level courses, the equivalent of a freshman year.

The Cost of Not Going Back to College

Think not obtaining your college degree won’t make a difference? Think again. For the average family, there is a huge income gap between those with and those without a college degree. In fact, as recently as 2010, families headed by a 4-year college graduate earned a median family income of $99,716 – more than twice the median income for families headed by a high school graduate.3 Clearly, it pays to get a college degree.

The data supporting your desire to go back and obtain your college degree is compelling. However, if you aren’t sure about your academic readiness, or are unsure how well you will be able to fit college in around your schedule, you should take appropriate steps today to reduce those risks. Some ways to reduce those risks could include taking developmental courses, understanding the true nature of your financial situation and how important flexibility is in your daily life.

Keep in mind your route to a college degree doesn’t have to look one way. You can start your higher education journey along one path and switch to another as your academic preparedness grows. As you grow in academic confidence and college experience, you may become better able to absorb the time commitment required to complete college courses successfully.

As you look at the different routes to a college degree, consider your risk tolerance. What if you have to withdraw before completing your degree – will you be able to afford to pay back a student loan? What’s your track record with high-level academics and taking college courses? Academic preparation makes a significant difference. At the most selective 4-year institutions, where students have strong academic preparation, 83% of students who began their studies in 2002 had completed degrees at their first institution by fall 2008. Only 27% of students who began at open enrollment institutions and 53% of those who began at institutions accepting at least 75% of their applicants earned degrees at their first institution within six years.4

Those students who do succeed, whether traditional or non-traditional students, teens, twenty-somethings or adult students, no matter the type of institution they attend, are the ones who knew what they wanted out of a college, what to expect when they started, were adaptable along the way, and prepared accordingly.


1 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011, p.2
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

2 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

3 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011, p.4
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

4 IBID