The Cost of Education: Trends and Options Part 2

Comparing Private and State Colleges

Traditionally, the best option for reducing costs was to attend a public college. There is no question that most state schools cost a lot less than most private colleges. As of 2009, annual undergraduate tuition, room, and board for the average public college was over $14,000 (in-state), but this can vary widely from state to state: For Louisiana, Idaho, Wyoming, or Utah, the 2009 cost was under $11,000, but for New Hampshire or Vermont, it was over $19,000, and in New Jersey, almost $21,000.3 For the current school year, average public college in-state tuition and fees (only) are up from $6,068 to $7,6054, a 25% increase over two years. As for private institutions, the average annual cost of tuition, room, and board, was almost $32,000 as of 2009. Even at the high end of the state-school spectrum, it is comparatively a lot more expensive to attend a private school.5

There is somewhat more flexibility when attending a private college, as there is no in-state residency issue. For private colleges the least expensive 10% (c. $21,500 per year, average) is a bit under half that of the 10% most expensive ($48,500 per year, average). Roughly speaking, this means that as far as expense is concerned, private colleges pick up right about where public colleges leave off.6 Ivy League expenses lead the list: It will cost you $48,580 to attend Princeton.7 Yale will run you $49,800.8 Harvard (after hiking its total package 3.5% as of 2009/2010) comes in at $48,868.9

The trend in increasing costs of education is not confined to the college level. Federal on-budget funds for public K-12 education are up 30% (factoring in inflation) over the last two decades. And at $13,500 per year, private secondary school tuition is almost the same rate as in-state tuition at a public college, and that is excluding room and board.10

Comparing Online and Traditional Brick & Mortar Colleges

The most dynamic response to the expense of college is the extremely rapid expansion of online learning. For one thing, you can shop nationwide for the right option. There are no residency requirements when it comes to online learning, and you have to consider that a dorm room and meals run around $8000 per year (this cost varies little between public and private colleges).11

Some traditional programs provide online or blended programs, but those tend to be priced at the same level as their regular classroom courses. These schools, after all, still have to maintain their often vast physical infrastructures. Virtual colleges have no such obligations, however, and they can afford to undercut physically based education while still offering a high-quality education with exclusively online college courses.

The expense of an online college varies, as with all other forms of education. For example, the University of Phoenix charges $550 per credit hour, plus $90 per course. For two 5-course semesters, this will cost around $17,500 per year, a bit above the average cost of public college in-state tuition. For a business degree, Walden University (as of 2009), at $580 per credit works out the same. Other online options are less expensive. Kaplan University (as of 2009) is $353 per credit.12 Ashford University tuition, for example, is currently around $370 per online credit.13 Colorado State University charges $329 per credit hour this year,14 while Capella University weighs in at $310 per credit.15


3 Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting institutions, by type and control of institution and state or jurisdiction: 2007-08 and 2008-09, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 335 http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_335.asp

4 What It Costs to Go to College, CollegeBoard inspiring minds http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/add-it-up/4494.html

5 Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting institutions, by type and control of institution and state or jurisdiction: 2007-08 and 2008-09, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 335 http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_335.asp

6 Undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates for full-time students in degree-granting institutions, by percentile of charges and control and type of institution: 2000-01 through 2008-09, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 336 http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_336.asp

7 Princeton tuition in 2010 and 1910, Princeton Alumni Weekly, The Weekly Blog, Jan. 25, 2010 http://blogs.princeton.edu/paw/2010/01/princeton_tuiti.html

8 Yale University, University Tuition Rates, 2000-01to 2010-11, Yale University http://www.yale.edu/oir/open/pdf_public/W082_Tuits_U.pdf

9 Robert Mitchell, Tuition to Rise 3.5 Percent at Harvard for 2009-10, Need-Based Aid to Jump 18 percent to $147 million, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Feb 18, 2009 http://www.fas.harvard.edu/home/news-and-notices/news/press-releases/tuition-02182009.shtml

10 Percentage of private schools that charged tuition, percentage of schools charging tuition that allowed tuition reductions, and average full tuition at each school level, by selected school characteristics: 2007-08, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, Schools and Staffing Survey http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/SASS/tables/sass0708_008_s2n.asp

11 Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting institutions, by type and control of institution: 1964-65 through 2008-09, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 334 http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_334.asp

12 Sarah Malburg, ed, An Online Degree in Business Administration is Cost Effective, Bright Hub, Nov. 28, 2009 http://www.brighthub.com/education/online-learning/articles/27007.aspx

13 Ashford University Tuition Rates, StraighterLine, 2011 http://www.straighterline.com/partner-colleges/ashford-university-tuition-rates.cfm

14 Colorado State University-Global Campus, The Best Colleges, 2011 http://www.thebestcolleges.org/schools/online/colorado-state-university-global-campus/

15 Capella University, Student Tuition Costs and Fees, State University.com, http://www.stateuniversity.com/universities/MN/Capella_University.html