How to Compare College Tuition Costs

The cost of a college can be an important and determining factor in ultimately making your choice. With many students, the choice ends up being between two or three different colleges. These steps should help you to compare the tuition at each institution.


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    Visit each college's website. Generally, the tuition of each college will be listed under the "Prospective Students" or "Undergraduate Admission" section of the website.
    • Additionally, there are also a variety of websites which display the cost of colleges in an easy to read manner. Try searching "college tuition cost" or "[School] Tuition" for a quick answer.
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    Write down the cost of tuition, and room and board. All of these are important to know in order to understand the total cost of each college.
    • The tuition includes the cost of classes while room and board will include the cost of housing and food.
    • Many colleges will require you to have a meal plan for the on-campus cafeteria(s) while you are living on-campus.
    • If you decide to live at home, do not include room and board in your total cost for the college.
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    Consider what sort of financial aid you will receive from each institution. There are many different types of aid available to you when applying to colleges. Be sure you understand the type of aid you are receiving.
    • Merit scholarships are given out if you show extraordinary achievement in school, or in extra-curricular activities. Need based scholarships are based on how much you need the money due to your financial situation. Therefore, it is important that you accurately fill out the section in the college's application which asks about your family's financial situation.
    • State and Federal grants are generally a combined need and merit based award. The amount awarded is usually not as high.
    • Private scholarships are also available to you. Many different organizations will help to pay for your college tuition for a variety of motives. Look online or in your community for organizations willing to help with tuition.
    • Student loans from the government will also help to pay for your college tuition based on the amount you actually need. Be warned though, you must pay back these loans after graduation. Additionally, these loans also carry interest rates.
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    Make a spreadsheet either with Excel or just by hand to compare. Using a program like Excel will give you the benefit of a built-in calculator however. The total will be calculated by adding together tuition with room and board as well as average textbook price and then subtracting any aid you will receive from the institution.
    • Create a column for each college.
    • Create a row for: Tuition, Room and Board, Financial Aid, cost of textbooks, and total cost. The average cost of textbooks for a year is around $1000.
    • If using Excel, add by entering "=Cell1+Cell2" into the function value of the target cell. Subtract by entering "=Cell1-Cell2". For example, if you have tuition, room and board, books, and financial aid in cells A1, A2, A3, A4 respectively, enter "=A1+A2+A3-A4" into cell A5.
    • The lowest number will of course be the cheapest college to attend.


  • Excel has useful features to perform arithmetic on numbers which should save you time.
  • Be sure to look at the average cost of books as well.


  • Cost should not be the only determining factor when deciding which college to attend.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate