What does a four-year college degree really cost?

RecessionAccording to the College Board, the average cost of college for an in-state public college for the 2012-2013 academic year was $22,261. The average cost of college at a private institution, on the other hand, was a staggering $43,289. That’s why considering the cost of college is an essential step in making an admissions decision—after all, just getting into college doesn’t mean you can afford to pay for it.

If you’re worried you can afford college, you’re not alone. Only 25% of American families can pay for college without financial assistance. If you aren’t one of them, the cost of college can be just as important as the school’s quality and should weigh on your decision process.

That said, knowing exactly how much a school will cost you can be difficult. Financial aid applications are confusing to decode, and financial aid award letters can be practically impossible to understand. To better understand the bottom line cost of college (since your cost may not be the same as the average cost of college), so that you can make an informed choice on what college you attend, we recommend the following:

Once you understand how much aid you have, you should:

You should educate yourself as a financial aid consumer and not let the process go on without your involvement or understanding. Doing so will help prevent disappointments or financial hardship, and could help you avoid getting admitted to your dream school only to discover you can’t afford it.


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