What Does College Cost America?

Here’s a statistic that’s devilish hard to find: How much, per year, does America spend on college education? That would be not only the cost of tuition, but also state and federal aid paid out to universities, the cost of room and board and other services, insurance, etc.

I was able to get a little information on tuition. In the year 2007-08, average tuition per year (I’ve rounded down the figures) was $4,500 for a two-year-community college, $17,000 for a state university, and $35,000 for a private university ( http://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2008/04/10/how-much-does-college-cost ). Obviously, these figures are eight years old and have surely gone up since then.

But let’s take the $17,000 annual tuition at a state university as an average figure–and then multiply it by the 17 million students enrolled in our colleges a year or two ago. That comes out to… $289 billion paid out in college tuitions per year. And again, I am working with old figures.

And again, that’s just tuition. Doubtless the amounts of money doled out in state and federal aid are, shall we say, considerable. And then there are the costs of textbooks, assorted student fees, housing, food, and this and that. So now I suspect we’re talking anywhere from half a trillion to a round trillion smackers a year.

For degrees in Social Justice, Gender Studies, Post-Modern Interpretative Luau Studies, and what have you.

Imagine if that money were put to some constructive purpose. Just imagine.

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