The real cost of college is almost never the sticker price you see on school websites. It’s actually based on your family income and any grants and scholarships your student receives.
But thankfully there’s data from the federal government that can help you estimate the real price your family might pay at the schools on your list.
Each year, the National Center of Education Statistics publishes the latest available net cost data from thousands of colleges across the country. The numbers show the average net cost families paid at these schools for one year of college.
Net costs are broken out by family income as well as the amounts in grants and scholarships that students in those income brackets typically received. Loans and other forms of financial aid aren’t included.
The latest net college costs are based on data from the 2018-19 school year, which is the newest data just released by the National Center of Education Statistics.
Even though the data is historical and the costs are only averages, it’s a great way to estimate and understand how much your family will be expected to pay at a given school.
To help you plan for college with these numbers, I’ve updated my website to give you quick access to these average net costs by family income for all major public and private colleges in all 50 U.S. states.
Click my interactive U.S. map and choose a state to see the average net costs for your family income bracket. This gives you a total baseline cost after deducting the average amounts that families in your income bracket receive in grants and scholarships. You can also print or download a PDF version of each state’s data.
IMPORTANT: Before you get started, here are a few important things to keep in mind:
What the Numbers Mean
The Average Net Price of Colleges by Income reflects the average new cost of one year of college for families in your income bracket. This is after grants and scholarships are deducted from the total cost of attendance. Loans of any kind are not included in the numbers, so your family’s costs could be lower if you borrow loans or secure other forms of financial aid.
What’s Included in the Costs
- Tuition and fees (in-state amounts for public schools)
- Room and board (on campus)
- Books and supplies
- Other expenses (travel and personal)
- Average grant awards
- Average scholarship awards
What’s Not Included in the Costs
- Non-grant or non-scholarship financial aid
How Much Your Family Will Pay
The costs are only averages, so your family may pay more or less than the average. Loans and other forms of financial aid besides grants or scholarships could affect the total as well. But they’re not included. The averages are based on all students, including high-achiever students, athletes, minority students and everyone else.
How You Can Use the Information
These figures provide a starting point to calculate and estimate your true college costs. You can enter the average cost for your income bracket as the Cost of Attendance in my Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator. You can use this calculator to estimate how much you’ll be expected to pay and your estimated financial need.
Ready to see how much specific colleges will really cost for your family? See the latest net college cost numbers now.