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Postsecondary Education

Price of Attending an Undergraduate Institution

Last Updated: May 2022
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In academic year 2019–20, the average net price of attendance (total cost minus grant and scholarship aid) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students attending 4-year institutions was $14,200 at public institutions, compared with $28,100 at private nonprofit institutions and $23,200 at private for-profit institutions (in constant 2020–21 dollars).

The total cost of attending a postsecondary institution includes the sum of published tuition and required fees;1 books and supplies; and the weighted average cost for room, board, and other expenses for each institution. In academic year 2020–21, the average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time undergraduate students2 differed by control of institution (public,3 private nonprofit, or private for-profit) and level of institution (4-year or 2-year). In addition, the average total cost of attendance varied by student living arrangement. A student could live on campus; off campus with family; or off campus but not with family. For example, in 2020–21, the average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time undergraduate students living on campus at 4-year institutions was higher at private nonprofit institutions ($54,500) than at private for-profit institutions ($33,500) and public institutions ($25,700).4

Select a subgroup characteristic from the drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Average total cost of attending degree-granting institutions for first-time, full-time undergraduate students, by level and control of institution and student living arrangement: Academic year 2020–21
Figure 1. Average total cost of attending degree-granting institutions for first-time, full-time undergraduate students, by level and control of institution and student living arrangement: Academic year 2020–21

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The total cost of attending a postsecondary institution includes tuition and required fees; books and supplies; and the average cost for room, board, and other expenses. Student charges data for 2019–20 were collected prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and therefore do not reflect any adjustments institutions might have made later in the academic year due to the pandemic. Tuition and fees at public institutions are the lower of either in-district or in-state tuition and fees. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component; and Fall 2020, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 330.40.

Among first-time, full-time undergraduate students in academic year 2020–21, the average total cost of attendance at 4-year institutions was similar for those living on campus and those living off campus but not with family. In comparison, the average total cost of attendance was lower for those living off campus with family. This pattern in the total cost of attendance was observed for public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit institutions. For example, at public 4-year institutions, the average total cost of attendance was $25,700 for students living on campus and $26,000 for students living off campus but not with family, compared with $14,900 for students living off campus with family. [Other individual characteristic]
Similarly, at 2-year institutions, the average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time undergraduate students in academic year 2020–21 was higher for students living on campus and those living off campus but not with family than for those living off campus with family. This pattern was observed for public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit institutions. For example, at public 2-year institutions, the average total cost of attendance was higher for students living off campus but not with family ($19,600) than for students living on campus ($15,900). Both groups had a higher average total cost of attendance than students living off campus with family ($9,700). [Other individual characteristic]
Figure 2. Average tuition and fees of degree-granting institutions for first-time, full-time undergraduate students, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 and 2020–21
Figure 2. Average tuition and fees of degree-granting institutions for first-time, full-time undergraduate students, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 and 2020–21

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Tuition and fees at public institutions are the lower of either in-district or in-state tuition and fees. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2011 and Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component; and Fall 2010 and Fall 2020, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 330.40.

Average tuition and fees were higher in academic year 2020–21 than in academic year 2010–11 for first-time, full-time undergraduate students at public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit 4-year institutions (in constant 2020–21 dollars). At public 4-year institutions, average tuition and fees were $9,400 in 2020–21, about 10 percent higher than they were in 2010–11 ($8,500). At private nonprofit 4-year institutions, average tuition and fees were $37,600 in 2020–21, about 19 percent higher than they were in 2010–11 ($31,700). At private for-profit 4-year institutions, average tuition and fees were $18,200 in 2020–21, about 1 percent higher than they were in 2010–11 ($18,100). [Time series ]
At 2-year institutions, average tuition and fees were higher in 2020–21 than in 2010–11 for public and private nonprofit institutions, but lower for private for-profit institutions (in constant 2020–21 dollars). Specifically, average tuition and fees were 18 percent higher in academic year 2020–21 than in academic year 2010–11 at public 2-year institutions ($3,900 vs. $3,300) and 9 percent higher in 2020–21 than in 2010–11 at private nonprofit 2-year institutions ($18,000 vs. $16,500). In contrast, average tuition and fees were 5 percent lower in 2020–21 than in 2010–11 at private for-profit 2-year institutions ($15,800 vs. $16,600). [Time series ]
Figure 3. Average net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid, by level and control of institution: Academic year 2019–20
Figure 3. Average net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid, by level and control of institution: Academic year 2019–20

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Net price is calculated here as the average total cost of attendance minus average grant and scholarship aid. Includes only first-time, full-time students who paid the in-district or in-state tuition rate and who were awarded Title IV aid. Excludes students who were not awarded any Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Grant and scholarship aid consists of federal Title IV grants, as well as other grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state or local governments, or institutional sources. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Totals include students for whom income data were not available. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 331.30.

The net price of attendance is the estimate of the actual amount of money that first-time, full-time students and their families need to pay in a given year to cover educational expenses. Net price is calculated here as the average total cost of attendance minus average grant and scholarship aid5 awarded to students. Net price provides an indication of the total financial burden on students and their families since it also includes loans.
In academic year 2019–20, among 4-year institutions, the average net price of attendance (in constant 2020–21 dollars) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid6 was lowest for students at public institutions ($14,200). The net price of attendance was higher at both private for-profit institutions ($23,200) and private nonprofit institutions ($28,100). Similarly, the average net price at 2-year institutions in 2019–20 was lowest at public institutions ($7,600). The net price of attendance was higher at private nonprofit institutions ($20,000) and private for-profit institutions ($22,200).
Figure 4. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students paying in-state tuition and awarded Title IV aid at public 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20
Figure 4. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students paying in-state tuition and awarded Title IV aid at public 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Average net price is calculated here as the average total cost of attendance minus average grant and scholarship aid. Includes only first-time, full-time students who paid the in-district or in-state tuition rate and who were awarded Title IV aid. Excludes students who were not awarded any Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Grant and scholarship aid consists of federal Title IV grants, as well as other grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state or local governments, or institutional sources. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Totals include students for whom income data were not available. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 331.30.

Many students and their families pay less than the full price of attendance because they receive financial aid to help cover expenses. Some primary types of financial aid are grant and scholarship aid, which do not have to be repaid, and loans, which must be repaid. Grant and scholarship aid may be awarded based on financial need, merit, or both and may include tuition aid from employers. In academic year 2019–20, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid (in constant 2020–21 dollars) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid was higher for students at private nonprofit institutions than for those at public and private for-profit institutions. Students at private nonprofit 4-year institutions received an average of $25,800 in grant and scholarship aid, compared with $8,800 at public institutions and $7,600 at private for-profit institutions.
In academic year 2019–20, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded and the net price paid (in constant 2020–21 dollars) differed by students’ family income level. In general, for income levels above $30,000, the lower the income, the greater the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded. For example, at public 4-year institutions, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded to first-time, full-time undergraduate students paying in-state tuition in 2019–20 was highest for those with family incomes of $30,000 or less ($12,200 in aid) and lowest for those with family incomes of $110,001 or more ($2,900 in aid). Accordingly, at public 4-year institutions, the lowest average net price ($9,300) was paid by students with family incomes of $30,000 or less, and the highest average net price ($22,900) was paid by those with family incomes of $110,001 or more. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
Figure 5. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid at private nonprofit 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20
Figure 5. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid at private nonprofit 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Average net price is calculated here as the average total cost of attendance minus average grant and scholarship aid. Includes only first-time, full-time students who were awarded Title IV aid. Excludes students who were not awarded any Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Grant and scholarship aid consists of federal Title IV grants, as well as other grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state or local governments, or institutional sources. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Totals include students for whom income data were not available. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 331.30.

The average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded to first-time, full-time undergraduate students at 4-year private nonprofit institutions (in constant 2020–21 dollars) was highest for those with family incomes between $30,001 and $48,000 ($30,300 in aid) and between $48,001 and $75,000 ($28,900 in aid). Those with family incomes of $30,000 or less were awarded a lower amount in aid ($26,700). Students with family incomes between $75,001 and $110,000 were awarded an average of $25,800 in aid from private nonprofit 4-year institutions. Those with family incomes of $110,001 or more were awarded the lowest amount ($21,800) in aid from private nonprofit 4-year institutions. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
In addition to receiving the most aid, students with family incomes between $30,001 and $48,000 paid the lowest average net price ($20,800) at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. Despite attending institutions with lower average total costs, students with family incomes of $30,000 or less paid a slightly higher net cost ($20,900). The highest average net price ($36,400) was paid by those with family incomes of $110,001 or more. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
Figure 6. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid at private for-profit 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20
Figure 6. Average total cost, grant and scholarship aid, and net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students awarded Title IV aid at private for-profit 4-year institutions, by family income level: Academic year 2019–20

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Excludes students who previously attended another postsecondary institution or who began their studies on a part-time basis. Average net price is calculated here as the average total cost of attendance minus average grant and scholarship aid. Includes only first-time, full-time students who were awarded Title IV aid. Excludes students who were not awarded any Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Grant and scholarship aid consists of federal Title IV grants, as well as other grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state or local governments, or institutional sources. Data are weighted by the number of students at the institution who were awarded Title IV aid. Totals include students for whom income data were not available. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2020–21, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 331.30.

At private for-profit 4-year institutions, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded to first-time, full-time undergraduate students in academic year 2019–20 (in constant 2020–21 dollars) was highest for those with family incomes between $30,001 and $48,000 ($8,100 in aid). The average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded was lowest for those with family incomes between $75,001 and $110,000 ($6,400 in aid). The lowest average net price ($22,600) was paid by students with family incomes of $30,000 or less. The highest average net price ($28,200) was paid by those with family incomes of $110,001 or more. [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]
In academic year 2019–20, at all family income levels, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid at 4-year institutions (in constant 2020–21 dollars) was highest for first-time, full-time undergraduate students at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. At most family income levels, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid was lowest for students at private for-profit 4-year institutions. Additionally, at each family income level except those with family incomes between $75,001 and $110,000 and $110,001 or more, the average net price was highest for students attending private for-profit 4-year institutions. For family incomes between $75,001 and $110,000 and $110,001 or more, the average net price was highest for students attending private nonprofit 4-year institutions. At all family income levels, the average net price was lowest for students attending public 4-year institutions. For example, the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded to students with family incomes between $30,001 and $48,000 who attended 4-year institutions was highest at private nonprofit institutions ($30,300), followed by public institutions ($11,700) and then private for-profit institutions ($8,100). The average net price of attending a private for-profit 4-year institution ($23,300) at this family income level was higher than the price of attending a private nonprofit institution ($20,800) or a public institution ($10,900). [Socioeconomic status (SES) ]

1 For public institutions, this is the lower of in-district or in-state published tuition and required fees.

2 Includes only students who are seeking a degree or certificate.

3 Data for public institutions only include students who paid the in-district or in-state tuition and fees.

4 Data in this indicator represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

5 Average amounts of grant and scholarship aid include federal Title IV grants, as well as other grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state or local governments, or institutional sources.

6 Title IV aid includes grant aid, work-study aid, and loan aid. Data for net price and grant and scholarship aid only include students who were awarded Title IV aid.

Supplemental Information

Table 330.40 (Digest 2021): Average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time undergraduate students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control and level of institution, living arrangement, and component of student costs: Selected years, 2010-11 through 2020-21;
Table 331.30 (Digest 2021): Average amount of grant and scholarship aid and average net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking students awarded Title IV aid, by control and level of institution and income level: Selected years, 2009-10 through 2019-20
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Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Price of Attending an Undergraduate Institution. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cua.