Paying for College

Congratulations on making the wise decision to attend college. This is the first step in making better decisions for yourself, your family, and your future.

Now, your next questions are likely to be:

  1. How much will college cost?
  2. Is there anything I can do to bring the cost down?

I have made myself what I am. Tecumseh, Shawnee

This first question is difficult to answer. The cost varies widely depending on whether the college is a two-year public community college, four-year pubic college or university, or a four-year private institution. Consider these 2009 average college costs from The College Board:

Two year public college
(per year)*
$ 2,544
Four-year public college
(per year)*
$ 7,020
Four-year private college
(per year)*

*The costs listed above for two-year and four-year public colleges are for in-state students. The same colleges may charge out-of-state students two or three times that amount-or they might reduce (or eliminate) those extra costs. What's going on? Click here for an explanation.

The answer to the second question is "absolutely." There are ways to bring down the cost of education at every college and that's what we'll focus on here.

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

State (public) colleges and universities get the money they need to operate from tuition and from taxes paid by state residents. So, students within that state pay a lower cost. Because out-of-state students haven't been paying tax dollars into that state, they are charged more through tuition.

These colleges also may have a lower price tag to entice graduates to stay in that state. College graduates are more likely to have good jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to the state's economy.

Whether a student pays in-state or out-of-state tuition isn't always set in stone. Consider these facts:

  • If a student is a "top performer" (someone with an excellent grade point average or test scores), some colleges may reduce (or eliminate) the extra cost for out-of-state tuition.
  • Some states with declining populations of college-age residents may reduce out-of-state tuition costs.
  • Some state colleges have agreed to a "reciprocity compact." This means that a state has an agreement with neighboring states to reduce (or eliminate) the extra cost of out-of-state tuition. For example, Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota as well as with the Canadian province of Manitoba. There are four regional reciprocity compacts: Western Undergraduate Exchange, Academic Common Market, Midwestern Higher Education, and the New England Board of Higher Education.