One question most people have asked themselves whether they’ve attended college or not is, “how much does college cost?”

I’ve asked myself that question a number of times.

And now that I’m done, I wanted to find out exactly how much college cost me. The total cost of tuition minus financial aid and scholarships to see what my out-of-pocket cost was.

I recently finished my master’s degree and added up the cost of my associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree.

There’s no doubt my situation is not applicable to everyone. And if you’ve thought about going to college, it could give you a ballpark estimate of what you can expect to pay for college if your situation is anything like mine.

Here’s how much college cost me.

Related: How to Hack College: 4 Steps to Graduate Debt-Free

Here’s What College Cost Me

Associates Degree

After high school, my goal was to go to the University of Utah. Luckily, things didn’t end up working out and I made the decision to go to a 2-year college.

A decision that saved me over $24,000.

And at the time I was bummed because the University of Utah is the flagship university in my state and I didn’t look into how much it would cost me. In hindsight, not going there for the first two years was the best decision.

I attended Utah Valley University. It’s a 4-year university but I only stayed there for 2 years to complete my general education.

Because my mom was a single mother and I was a dependent on her tax return, I qualified for the full Pell Grant.

Here is the cost broken down by semester and how I paid for it.

Utah Valley University

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancingSource
2010 Fall$2,257$2,775Financial Aid
$10Cash Payment
2011 Spring$2,175$2,775Financial Aid
$20Cash Payment
2011 Summer$808$808Cash Payment
2011 Fall$1,972$2,775Scholarship
2014 Summer$1,460$1,412Financial Aid
$48Cash Payment
2014 Fall$2,749$2,865Financial Aid
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding
$11,421$13,488

Even though it took me nearly 5 years to get my associate’s degree, I was at Utah Valley University for 2 years. The three-year gap between 2012 and 2014 was when I moved to Texas for a church service mission.

The total cost of an associate’s degree was $11,421. But you can see that the total amount of funding was $2,067 more. And this is because after receiving the full amount of financial aid for both years, a scholarship I earned in high school of $2,775 was applied.

I used that extra money to pay for books, room & board, etc.

And after completing my associate’s degree, I then transferred to the University of Utah.

Bachelor’s Degree

I graduated with a degree in business administration in December 2017 from the University of Utah. I knew it was going to be a stretch and the cost of it almost kept me from going.

My plan was to get a degree in finance but I realized corporate finance was not my thing. It also would have cost me more.

Here’s what my four year degree cost me:

The University of Utah

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancingSource
2015 Spring$3,734$2,865Financial Aid
$869Cash Payment
2015 Fall$4,126$2,412Financial Aid
$238Cash Payment
$5,705Student Loan
2016 Summer$1,908$1,908Cash Payment
2016 Fall$6,156$3,813Financial Aid
$4,875Scholarships
2017 Spring$6,096$2,375Scholarships
$2,333Financial Aid
2017 Summer$3,810$3,810Cash Payment
2017 Fall$7,220$2,935Financial Aid
$3,225Scholarships
$1,060Cash Payment
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding
$38,423$38,423

I was at the University of Utah for 3 years. This was the most expensive degree for me. I had to borrow student loans in my first year to cover the cost.

It was a bummer but I had to do it. However, I paid off the student loans by the time I graduated.

The average cost of tuition for a four year degree in the US is $35,572.

The total cost of tuition for me was $38,423.

With that, I was just over the national average for a bachelor’s degree. The fall of 2015 was the first time that I had to borrow student loans. That was a bummer but I had to do it.

Master’s Degree

After finishing my bachelor’s degree I took a semester off and decided to move to Texas for a master’s degree. The master’s degree was in personal financial planning and I chose Texas Tech for three reasons:

  • The cost of tuition was low
  • I received a scholarship and qualified for in-state tuition
  • And received a fellowship that help cover the cost

In hindsight, I’m very happy with my decision to get my master’s degree there.

Related: How to Embrace Financial Success in Your 20’s

Here is the cost broken down by semester.

Texas Tech University

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancing Source
2018 Fall$9,468$7,315Scholarships
$2,153Cash Payment
2019 Spring$7,936$6,485Scholarships
$1,450Cash Payment
2019 Fall$8,527$6,997Scholarships
$1,530Student Loans
2020 Spring$4,845$2,063Scholarships
$2,087Cash Payment
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding
$30,775$30,079

You can see that I no longer qualified for financial aid for a master’s degree. Because of that, getting scholarships was more important to me.

I did borrow $1,500 in student loans during my time at Texas Tech but also was able to pay that off by the time I graduated.

How much does college cost? | Scott Henderson at Texas Tech University | Simplifinances

The Total Cost of College

I’m grateful that I was able to qualify for financial aid and I thank the Department of Education for helping me complete my education.

And I’m grateful for all of the donors that trusted me with a scholarship. I wouldn’t have been able to complete college if it wasn’t for them.

Here is the total cost of college:

Total Financial AidTotal ScholarshipsOut-of-Pocket TotalTotal Student LoansTotal Cost
$28,742$33,334$12,304$7,235$80,617

Is College Worth The Cost?

Now that I have a good idea of how much college cost me, I can accurately assess whether or not college is worth the cost. The total cost of college for three degrees was $80,617. That seems like a lot, but that’s accurate because I didn’t pay that out of pocket.

I only paid $19,539 between student loans and personal savings. And that was over a 10 year period. And you also have to factor in the cost of living during those years, also the opportunity cost if I wasn’t working.

Honestly, there were a lot of mistakes I could have made in college but tried to avoid them.

So, was college worth the cost?

Absolutely.

Here’s why:

  • I took advantage of the financial aid that was available to me
  • Scholarships that I aggressively pursued
  • I constantly found ways to decrease my cost of living
  • Through college, I was always working and didn’t have to borrow much in student loans
  • I won’t be repaying student loans for the next 10+ years
  • And ultimately, it was worth it because I can demand a higher wage for the rest of my working career. It took a few years of sacrifice upfront but I know my income will be higher because I have a master’s degree.

If you’re still wondering if college is worth it and how much does college cost for you, the answer depends.

But don’t let the cost of it keep you from continuing your education because it may be less than you think. And if you can take advantage of the help that is available to you, it will be that much more worth it.

Why Is College So Expensive?

College has increased 100% in the last 20 years. That means college is now twice as expensive as it was in 2000. That’s crazy! And nothing has increased at that same rate.

College is expensive. And it’s only getting more expensive.

You may not qualify for financial aid. You may not receive any scholarships. College tuition in your state may not be as affordable as Utah and Texas. You may have to borrow an insane amount of student loans at high rates to finish your degree.

If this is you, you really have to ask yourself if college will be worth it. As the cost of tuition rises, we have to scrutinize college.

As college gets more and more expensive, I have to help my son decide in 16 years if it will be worth it. I honestly don’t know if it will be. He most likely won’t qualify for financial aid. He’ll have to get scholarships, borrow student loans, and work his way through school.

I started a 529 college plan for my son before he was born but my plan is to only help him cover the cost of room and board and a computer. I don’t plan on paying tuition for any of my kids.

Read: Should I Set Up A College 529 Savings Plan?

The Bottom Line

As college gets more and more expensive, I have to help my son decide in 16 years if it will be worth it. I honestly don’t know if it will be. He most likely won’t qualify for financial aid. He’ll have to get scholarships, borrow student loans, and work his way through school.

I started a 529 college plan for my son before he was born but my plan is to only help him cover the cost of room and board and a computer. I don’t plan on paying tuition for any of my kids.

You may be reading this for yourself or you may be reading this for a child. And if you are, you may still be wondering how much does college cost. I can’t give you that answer because so much depends on the situation. But I’ve given you a clear idea of what it costs me and told you if it was worth it for me or not.

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