College Cost Calculators: Tuition and Fees

Whether you're just starting your college journey or returning to college after a break these college cost calculators will help you budget for college.

September 29, 2021

College Cost Calculators: Tuition and Fees

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Calculate Tuition, Loan payments, and Savings

College costs can feel overwhelming, but planning ahead can ease the burden of college tuition and help students pay for school. Today, more than 50% of families have a plan to pay for college. However, only 37% of families use a college savings account, meaning students may miss out on thousands when it comes to saving for college. Whether you're just starting your college journey, returning to college after a break, or saving for your children to attend college, these college cost calculators will help you budget for college.

Our calculator estimates the amount of money you can afford to spend monthly or annually on college tuition. Simply enter your financial information, including your monthly or yearly income, cost of living, and loan payments. Our calculator also considers any scholarship aid you receive and the cost of equipment and supplies. Once you fill out the boxes, we will give you an estimated annual tuition amount, as well as a monthly payment.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

Tution and More: Calculating the True Cost of College

Colleges list tuition per credit or per semester on their websites. But college tuition is not the only factor in calculating the cost of college. Fees and living expenses can equal or exceed tuition costs. When determining the true cost of attending college, students need to factor in expenses like textbooks, housing, and transportation. This section walks through the cost of higher education to help students figure out how much their degree will cost.

College Cost Calculators

Big Future’s College Cost Calculator

Students planning to attend college in the future can find out how much it might cost by the time they enroll. The calculator can also estimate costs at a specific college.

College Cost Projector

Students can estimate their college costs by entering information about annual costs, expected years of attendance, and savings. The calculator also considers tuition inflation.

University-Specific Calculators

Many universities offer calculators based on their tuition rates. This calculator from the University of Chicago takes 10 minutes to complete and tells students their estimated college costs.

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The Cost of College Loans

The cost of college is more than most students can pay out of pocket even at an affordable college. Today, around 70% of undergraduates take out loans to cover college costs. But before borrowing money to pay for college, students should understand the types of loans available, how to calculate their financial need, and how much they need to repay after graduation.

Student Loans and Financial Aid Guides

College Loan Calculators

Repayment Estimator

The federal student aid loan simulator lets prospective borrowers calculate their loan, determine the best repayment strategy, and consider temporary relief options.

Student Loan Calculator.

The CollegeBoard calculator lets borrowers calculate their loan payments versus their estimated starting salary after college to make informed decisions about student loans.

Student Loan Payment Amount Estimator

Sallie Mae offers a calculator for borrowers to determine their student loan payments based on interest rate, length of the loan, and the number of loans.

Estimating Family Contribution

Determining their family contribution to college can help new students figure out their eligibility for financial aid and how much they might need in student loans.

For example, the FAFSA calculates need-based aid using a student's expected family contribution (EFC). That number can vary depending on the applicant's age, their income, and their family's finances. An EFC calculator can estimate whether students qualify for need-based federal aid programs like the Pell Grant.

Many students take out student loans to cover a gap between their college costs and their family contribution. Federal borrowers do not need a credit history or cosigner to take out most types of loans. Some federal loans, like direct subsidized loans, take EFC into account to determine need. Students taking out private loans may need a cosigner to guarantee repayment of their loan.

Estimated Family Contribution Calculators

EFC Calculator

The FAFSA uses EFC to determine need-based aid. This calculator lets students estimate their expected family contribution to plan ahead on their financial aid.

The EFC Formula, 2016-2017

This document, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, provides a comprehensive and detailed explanation of how and why EFCs are used and includes an example of the paperwork that will need to be filled out on the FAFSA.

Streamlined Expected Family Contribution Calculator

This calculator lets students enter financial information to estimate their expected contribution toward college costs.

How to Save for College

Learning about college savings plans and calculating college costs can help families maximize their savings. This section introduces college savings calculators and offers tips and advice on saving for college.

What’s a 529 Savings Plan?

A 529 savings plan lets individuals and families save for college in a tax-advantaged investment account. Unlike a conventional savings account, earnings in a 529 account grow tax free, with tax-free withdrawals for qualified educational expenses. Many states also offer tax incentives for contributing to a 529 plan.

Anyone can open a 529 plan -- the accounts come with no income or age limits. Account holders can also change the beneficiary, and 529 savings will not count against families for the FAFSA. Before opening a 529 account, check whether your state offers tax benefits. If not, savers can create an account in any state.

How Much Should I Start Saving for College?

It's hard to know how much you'll need to save for college. With the cost of college tuition rising, calculating how much to save can feel more like guessing. But future students can take several steps to start saving for college today.

First, students and families can use college savings calculators to estimate the cost of college in the future. The calculators introduced below use the projected cost of tuition to calculate how much you need to save each month. It's also helpful to keep an eye on tuition costs at target schools. For example, if you are planning to attend a flagship public university, check out annual tuition increases to estimate future costs.

College Savings Calculators

The CollegeBoard savings calculator tells students if they're on track to pay for college and what they'll need to save to reach their college savings goals.

A Vanguard planner, this site helps students and families figure out how much to save for college based on current costs and savings goals.

Budgeting as a Student

Budgeting for college is not just about covering the cost of tuition, textbooks, and fees. Students should also consider saving for other expenses, particularly ones that loans may not cover, like entertainment and recreational activities. These costs can make a big difference in your budget and your college experience.

This section walks through the college costs that students might forget when creating their budget. It also introduces student budgeting calculators.

What Should You Budget For?

When most families start saving for college, they forget about the day-to-day expenses that can quickly add up. College is about more than paying tuition. Students also need a place to live, a transportation budget, and money for personal expenses.

Take, for example, housing and food costs. Many colleges provide estimated living expenses, but students on a budget may prefer a more exact number. On top of these expenses, students should budget for school supplies, which range from inexpensive (notebooks and pens) to expensive (a new laptop).

When calculating how much to save, students should consider their college experience. Do you want to live in the dorms? Will you need a car to get around town? If you're going to college out of state, how will you pay to travel home during breaks? Getting specific can help you create an accurate budget and stick to it.

Student Budgeting Calculators

A straightforward budget calculator, this site helps students manage their money by weighing income against expenses and monthly student loan payments.

A tool to make budgeting for college easier, Calculate Your College Expenses considers school expenses, food costs, entertainment expenses, and other common expenses to help you create an appropriate budget.

A nonprofit dedicated to making college costs more transparent, Mapping Your Future offers resources and financial loan counseling to help students gain information about college costs and learn more about financial aid.

College students can track their balances and bills with Mint. By linking accounts to Mint, students can monitor their credit score, manage their finances, and budget for college costs.

Answers to Questions on How to Calculate College Cost Using a Calculator

true Q. How can students and their families use the various types of calculators available most effectively?

The most important type of calculator is a net price calculator. The net price is the difference between total college costs (e.g., tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, equipment, transportation, and miscellaneous/personal expenses) and gift aid (grants, scholarships and other money that does not need to be earned or repaid). This represents the real cost of the college and is needed to determine whether the college is affordable or not. If total resources (savings, contributions from current income, and reasonable debt) is less than the four-year net price, the college is affordable, otherwise not.

The next most important calculator is a loan calculator that can determine the monthly payment, total payments and total interest paid over the life of the loan, given the amount borrowed, interest rate and repayment term.

The third most important calculator is a college savings calculator that calculates how much you must save per month, given a college savings goal, earnings interest rate, contribution frequency and duration of contributions (e.g., from birth, from when the child enters high school, etc.). Also useful is a college savings growth calculator that shows how much money you will have given a particular savings contribution amount.

true Q. How can families best decide how much money they should be setting aside for college?

Families should start with the net price calculator, to determine the net price for several colleges their child will consider. Include a variety of college types, including an in-state public college and a private non-profit college. This will give you an idea of the current net price. If the child will not be enrolling in college for several years, assume that the net price will increase by 6% to 7% each year, on average.

Next, calculate the total amount of savings available to pay for college costs. If college is several years away, use a college savings calculator to figure out how much you can save in total or how much you need to save per month. Use about a third of the sticker price or net price as the goal if you don't have another goal already.

Student loan debt is reasonable and affordable if total debt at graduation is less than your expected annual starting salary. So, use the student's future annual income as the loan amount.

Combine the debt and savings figures with the amount of money the family expects to be able to contribute from income each year the child is in college. Compare this total with the four-year net price. If it is less than the net price, the college is affordable. Otherwise, the family will have to stretch to afford the college.

true Q. What are some of the costs that students and their families may forget to include when calculating costs?

There are many hidden college costs, such as class-specific fees, technology and printing fees, the cost of outfitting a dorm room, and various other fees. Assume that there will be $250 to $500 a month in such hidden fees.

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