You hear so much talk about the cost of college that it’s easy to be anxious — but how much does it really cost? The short answer is that it varies. No matter the cost, you should consider your degree in communications as an investment in yourself and your potential.
Tuition refers to the amount of money charged by colleges and universities for admission. Tuition is used by the university to defray the costs of funding staff and faculty, lab equipment, course offerings, computer systems, and facility upkeep and libraries, and to provide a safe and comfortable environment for students. In addition to tuition, you can count on paying fees—sometimes rolled into the tuition, sometimes not. While you’re looking at the bottom line, see if your school has extra lab fees for students who are studying communications. You will want to investigate this as you do your research to avoid surprises as you compute your projected costs.
There are two major categories that universities fall under: public (state-supported) and private (independent) institutions. As a general rule of thumb, state universities are less expensive to attend than their private counterparts. Tuition at a state school can be expensive if you are not a resident of that state, however, so be sure to look at non-resident tuition rates if applicable when researching costs.
It’s important to understand that the price tag of a program does not automatically reflect the program’s value. More than half of all undergraduate students attend a four-year university that has tuition and fees of less than $9,000 per year. At the other end of the continuum are private four-year colleges that can cost $35,000 or more yearly for tuition and fees. The good news is that these higher-priced universities sometimes have larger endowments, which mean that there is more aid available to attend those institutions.
At two-year colleges, the average annual cost for tuition and fees can be as low as $2,500. That makes the junior/community college a viable alternative for your first two years if money is tight. Before going this route, however, you will want to check with the school you want to transfer to after junior college to make sure that the credits will transfer to your communications degree plan. Use caution when registering for a class at a junior college in your major field of study. Some, but not all, four-year colleges and universities prefer that you do your major coursework in communications at their school.
When you are determining your college costs, don’t forget to include potential living expenses. Annual living expenses can run about $10,000 per year, which includes room and board as well as other personal expenses. Although expenses are different depending on lifestyle, here is a general idea of what you might expect:
|Rent/room||$400/month||This varies greatly depending on where you are living dorm vs. apartment, roommate(s) vs. living alone, etc.|
|Groceries/board||$150/month||Again, this can vary greatly depending on if you are living in a dorm and have a meal plan or preparing your meals on your own.|
Most students can survive on $700-$1,000 a month. The solution here is to try to share expenses, which will save you money on utilities and to some extent on groceries.
The good news for you is that most students receive some financial aid. Last year, more than $126 billion in financial aid was awarded to undergraduates. The average aid package for a full-time undergraduate student was about $10,000, which included about $5,000 in grants which don’t have to be repaid.
Money aside, your goal is to choose a college that’s right for you. Think about whether you like the campus, lifestyle, and reputation of the communications department. Also consider if there is enough educational support to help you do well in your courses. Make sure you take into account the cost of attendance at that university through graduation.
The bottom line is that despite all the talk about high prices and price increases, a college education remains an affordable choice for most families.