Every year, the College Board releases updated college cost data and trends in its annual report. The College Board publishes average cost figures, which are based on a survey of approximately 4,000 colleges across the country.

Following are cost highlights for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Total cost of attendance” includes direct billed costs for tuition, fees, room, and board, plus a sum for indirect costs that include books, transportation, and personal expenses, which will vary by student.

Public college costs (in-state students)

  • Tuition and fees increased by 1.1% to $10,560
  • Room and board increased 1% to $11,620
  • Total cost of attendance: $26,820

Public college costs (out-of-state students)

  • Tuition and fees increased by 0.9% to $27,020
  • Room and board increased 1% to $11,620 (same as in-state)
  • Total cost of attendance: $43,280

Private college costs

  • Tuition and fees increased by 2.1% to $37,650
  • Room and board increased 1% to $13,120
  • Total cost of attendance: $54,880Over the past decade, the average published tuition, fees, room, and board at private 4-year colleges increased by 17% beyond increases in the Consumer Price Index, and at 4-year public colleges increased 15% beyond increases in the Consumer Price Index.

FAFSA opened October 1st

The FAFSA for the next school year, 2021-2022, opened on October 1, 2020, and relies on income information from your 2019 federal income tax return and current asset information. Your income is the biggest factor in determining financial aid eligibility.

A detailed analysis of the federal aid formula is beyond the scope of this article, but generally, here is how your expected family contribution (EFC) is calculated.

  • Parent income is counted up to 47% (income equals adjusted gross income, plus untaxed income/benefits minus certain deductions)
  • Student income is counted at 50% over the student’s income protection allowance ($6,970 for the 2021-2022 year)
  • Parent assets over the asset protection allowance are counted at 5.64% (home equity, retirement accounts, cash value life insurance, and annuities are not counted at all)
  • Student assets are counted at 20%

Your EFC remains constant, no matter which college your child attends. Your EFC is not the same as your child’s financial need. To calculate financial need, subtract your EFC from the cost of a specific college. Because costs vary at each college, your child’s financial need will vary by college.


This article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as the basis for an investment decision. Consult your financial adviser, as well as your tax and/or legal advisers, regarding your personal circumstances before making investment decisions.