College costs are skyrocketing. Here’s how to prepare.

You want the best for your family — and that includes the best possible education. You may have some savings strategies in place, but the more you’re aware of all available options for paying for college, the more confident you can feel about how your family will be paying for education.

Get a solid grasp on college costs

You know that tuition alone can cause massive sticker shock. And that’s just the starting point. The actual cost of college includes additional expenses, such as housing, meal plans, books, and travel to and from home.

Average published full-year tuition and fees for full-time students 2021 – 2022Footnote 1

Bar graph with 3 items showing college costs from highest to lowest: The first bar shows $38,070 for private nonprofit four-year college; the second bar shows $27,560 for public four-year out-of-state college; the third bar shows $10,740 for public four-year in-state.

The cost of tuition is likely to continue to rise


The rate, on average, that tuition increases each yearFootnote 2

Know your options for covering college costs

The first step in paying for college should be filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application so your child can qualify for financial aid.

You’re likely already contributing to a college savings plan that allows your money to grow tax­-free* and should continue to do so. But if you haven't, it’s never too late to start. These savings can be used for higher education, as well as qualifying private elementary and secondary tutition.

How college costs are typically coveredFootnote 3

Chart graph showing how college costs are covered during the academic years 2020 through 2021. From largest to smallest: 45% comes from parent income and savings. 25% from scholarships and grants. 20% from borrowing. 8% from student income and savings. 2% from relatives and friends.

* Consult with a tax advisor on your specific situation.

Explore grants and scholarships

With a little research, you and your child may find funding options, such as academic merit scholarships, to help pay for college. A high school counselor, the Tuition Funding Sources' scholarship database, and the U.S. Department of Education’s student financial aid site are among the many resources at your disposal. And remember, they can continue to re-apply for new scholarships and grants each year, even in college.

$100 million

The estimated scholarship amount that goes unawarded annually, mainly due to a lack of applicantsFootnote 4

Share your financial knowledge

Start early in setting your child up to succeed in college.

  • Share details on saving and budgeting.
  • When you begin to consider potential colleges, make sure your child has completed the FAFSA by the deadline and take time to look at financial aid packages together.
  • Explain how student loans work and discuss ways they might contribute.

Here’s more on saving for a child’s education — and protecting your own financial securityLearn more