How Much Does College Cost? Compare Costs Before You Decide

Written by The LCU Blogging Team on Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 in Financial Aid

Whether you’re wrapping up your high school career or you’re getting close to finishing your two-year college degree, one thing is for sure. It’s time to think about the next step: applying to a four-year university.

You know that earning a degree from a four-year institution is quite an investment, and it’s important to weigh the cost as a factor in your choice of school. We can help with that!

As you start to browse through university websites to narrow your choices, here are a few steps you can take to compare the cost of each school accurately.

Apples to Apples

The first thing you need to do is check that you are comparing apples to apples. There is no standard for presenting tuition and fees on a university’s website. Each site you visit may take a different approach to outlining the cost.

For example, University A may use a detailed table or chart that breaks down all tuition and fees by line item, while University B may lump everything together and present an average total cost for a single semester or year.

Yes, this is confusing, and no, it isn’t meant to trick you. But it does explain why your first choice school may look out of reach compared to another.

Tuition, Fees, and Beyond

The next step to finding the actual cost of attending a college or university is to take stock of tuition, fees, and other charges. This includes room and board, books, transportation, meal plans, and more. These can vary based on unique factors, such as your intended field of study, your living arrangements, and so on.

It’s helpful to make a detailed list of each school’s fees and beyond. Below are just a few specific items to research. Note: if you can’t find these on the school website, you can call, email, or chat online with the university to learn more.

Tuition – This is what you pay for the classes you take. Note: some classes in specific majors can cost more per credit hour.

Fees – Schools use many small fees to make up budgets for services they provide, such as bus service, library, athletic & recreational facilities, student government, and more.

Room & Board – aka housing & meals. Most schools provide an average for this number. Costs vary based on your decision to live on or off campus, the residence hall you select if on campus, and the meal plan you purchase.

Books – This will depend on your class load and syllabi or whether you can rent books instead of purchasing. Many schools can provide an estimated cost per semester. Be sure to also research costs associated with class supplies, such as paint and canvases needed for an art course.

Transportation Expenses – This includes on-campus parking and/or cost for transportation to and from your residence. Also consider the initial cost and need for a bike and bike lock to help your on-campus commute.

Now that you identified the sticker price for each school (and possibly experienced sticker shock in the process) there’s one final step to calculate the cost.

Calculating Net Cost and Overall Value

To determine the net cost of a college or university, take the sticker price and subtract all possible scholarships and grants. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

The face-value of a private school, such as Lubbock Christian University, may seem high compared to a state, or public, school. But the net costs may be comparable. How? Because many private schools offer a different mix of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study packages to students that can drastically reduce tuition and fees.

As a final piece to your college calculations, consider each school’s overall value. Different universities may offer benefits that can’t be given a dollar value, like smaller class sizes, undergraduate research opportunities, supportive faculty and staff, and a close-knit religious community. Focusing on both the final cost and the intangible value of each university can point you to the college that is best for you.

Seek Insider Wisdom

Guidance counselors, teachers, and admissions advisors, both at your high school and future university, can provide immeasurable help in calculating the costs and benefits of your different school choices. They have years of wisdom and want to support you in your big decision. Start by contacting your LCU Admissions Advisor with your questions about your next steps. From your financial aid package to on-campus activities, their insight can help you make the right choice for you.

Begin comparing the cost of your top universities. Start now:

college cost comparison