College Cost Calculator

The College Cost Calculator can help you to estimate what your college education will cost, and how much you will have to save up for it. You can consider the monthly equivalent saving amount considering the average cost, cost increase rate, the time, as well as interest rate and tax rate. If you have a specific college in mind, you can use the college navigator to get more precise data. Otherwise, please use the data provided in the reference.

Today's annual college costs: $
College cost increase rate:% (recommend to use 5%)
Expect to attend college for:years
Percent of costs from savings:%
Saving interest/return rate:% (Your saving interest rate or investment return rate)
Saving interest/return tax rate:% (Including federal, state, and local tax)
College will start in:years

RelatedStudent Loan Calculator | Budget Calculator


Average Annual College Cost, Including Tuition, Fee, and Living Cost for 2015-2016
4-year private:$47,831
4-year public (in-state):$24,061
4-year public (out-of-state):$38,544
2-year public:$16,833
source: the college board, click here for school specific information.

How much does college cost?

You should first be aware of just how much a college education costs today. In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2013–2014 academic year averaged about $20,000. A moderate budget at a private college averaged about $40,000. This estimate includes tuition, the money you pay a college for academic instruction. Then there are "fees", charges for specific services such as Internet access. Many colleges list "tuition and fees" as one amount without breaking it down. Then, there are all the other expenses associated with going to college: housing, meals, books, school supplies, and most schools add on miscellaneous for outings and other things that are just part of a university education.

It is now required under U.S. law that every college and university now have an online net price calculator. You can use this tool to estimate how much you will need to pay for college. These tools often take into account your potential to receive financial aid, but not all of it, so you have to be very careful about working with the final figure they produce. The best way to get a number for a given university is to call the financial aid office, and to ask for the Total Cost of Attendance (COA). That will give you a figure without taking personal determinants into account.

Then you should begin to work out what financial aid you can expect.

Calculating your financial aid

No matter who you are, or what your financial situation is, you should not rule out the possibility of receiving financial aid. Take the time to work through the evaluation process, and you may be pleasantly surprised. It is certainly worth trying.

The key to the entire process, and the place to start, is the calculation of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the amount of money that you are expected to contribute to paying for college. The calculation is based on a number of factors, including your income, assets, etc.

Individual colleges then apply the EFC to their own fee structures to determine your demonstrated financial need. Financial need is determined by the difference between the cost of a particular college and an applicant's EFC. If your EFC is $7,000, and a given college costs $10,000 per year, you have a good chance of receiving $3,000 per year in financial aid. If the college costs $20,000 per year, you may get $10,000 in aid, or just part of that sum.

Each college at which you apply will put together a financial aid package. A financial aid package shows how an individual college plans to meet the financial need of the student. If you are accepted at three colleges and apply for financial aid at all of them, you will receive three different financial aid packages.

Your application at various colleges is likely to include an application to the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the government agency that administers a number of types of federal financial aid programs.

Types of Financial Aid

There are three basic types of financial aid: Loans, scholarships or work-study. Each type of financial aid may be offered by a federal or state program, or by a private agency, or by a private firm. Conditions, of course, are radically different depending on the source of the aid.

Loans may come from the federal or state government, from the college itself, or from private sources. Loans bear interest, although the rate of interest on a student loan is often much lower than commercial rates would be. But repayment is often deferred until after graduation, and sometimes until the student actually gets a job.

For example, the Stafford Loan, is made in a form subsidized by the federal government, and so interest payments are not due on the subsidized loan while the student is in college. The subsidized loan also enjoys a low interest rate – it is currently at 3.86 percent for the 2013-2014 academic year. The unsubsidized version of the Stafford loan is also available, but is much more expensive.

Scholarships or grants may also be made by government agencies, the college, or other organizations. These are payments made for you, and do not have to be repaid. Some scholarships are purely needs-based, meaning that they are provided solely on the basis of financial need. Other scholarships are merit-based: These are grants or scholarships to students who have shown excellence in scholastics or who have special talents or achievements in some area (such as sports, music, or leadership). Merit scholarships are not limited to students who have financial need: For example, in New York State, the Regents Scholarship is made to all those students who perform well on the Regents Exam in high school, and who choose to attend a New York-State based college. Other scholarships link financial need and merit-based achievement.

Work-study jobs are subsidized by the federal government and intended for students who have financial needs. The jobs typically don't pay especially well, and, from a strictly pocketbook point of view, students may do better finding a job with a private company. But work-study jobs have advantages. Their earnings don't reduce the student's future financial aid awards. Their schedules are generally worked out so that the student's classes aren't affected.

And they are typically on campus, so the student doesn't have to worry about commuting and the costs of travel. But work study jobs are generally restricted to fifteen hours of work per week, because that is the recommended amount of work time that students should do on the side.

Each college's financial aid package will offer scholarships, loans and work-study jobs. If you are accepted into different colleges, compare the packages to see which one is best for you, and right for your means.

Saving for a College Education – the 529 Plan

It is obviously a good idea to start early to save up for your child's college education, and a very efficient way to do this is to make use of the so-called 529 plans. These plans are named after section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. These plans involve the purchase of tuition credits that your child will use.

There are two types of 529 plans, prepaid plans and savings plans. In a prepaid plan, you purchase tuition credits today and your child uses them in the future. You save money, because the cost of credits appreciates every year. They are offered by individual colleges or by state governments.

There are also 529 plans that are based on investment in managed funds. These investment-based plans are taken early in the child's life, and held until the child is college-age. These plans are managed for age-based asset allocations so that the underlying investments become more conservative as the child gets closer to college age. They are offered by some states, but not by individual colleges. There can be tax advantages associated with 529 plans.