Numbers don’t lie, but they can cheat. Experts say the average cost of tuition, room and board, and general fees is $16,140 for a public four-year university and $36,993 at a private school. Meanwhile, the average student debt graduates with $24,000 — if they make it through four years. Those numbers may sound big, but as any parent with a child (or two) in college can tell you, they represent only a small part of the overall tab. When you look beyond the official sticker price, the total cost of a four-year college education is much higher. Not surprisingly, many institutions also underreport their “average” student debt, or don’t report it at all.
The cost of college has tripled in the past 30 years: tuition is increasing at twice the rate of inflation, and room and board is growing 6.5 percent each year. But on top of those charges, there are thousands of dollars in costs that many families don’t calculate. “The main reason why people who go to public universities end up in debt, is not the tuition, but the living away from home expenses, which at a public university, are three or four times more than tuition,” says Andrew Hacker, co-author of Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids – And What We Can Do About It .
When we calculated the average costs of 20 common items, including the cost of buying a modest used car, we found that a $64,560 four-year public school education can end up costing $133,299. That’s nearly $70,000 above the advertised price. No wonder some students end up over $100,000 in debt. Here are some hidden costs parents should consider as they put together their budgets.