Although university tuition and housing costs vary considerably by location, the average cost of tuition, room and board, and books at a public U.S. university in 2009-10 totaled $16,153 for an in-state student:
In-state tuition: $7,020
Room and board: $8,193
Out-of-staters could expect to pay $18,548 for tuition alone, bringing their public school tab to $27,681.
Those figures do not include the other expenses of attending college - laptops, lab fees, practice room rental and piano tuning (if your child is a music major), transportation, dorm social fees or Greek dues, and all the other bank account-depleting costs everyone forgets about.
Parents also should keep in mind that mind-boggling tuition increases are hitting college students across the nation. The average private school saw tuition rise 4.4% from 2008 to 2009, according to CNN. Some public universities have been even harder hit. Officials at UC Berkeley, for example, announced that tuition will rise 32% between 2009 and 2010, bringing the tuition, housing and books total up to $28,442 for state residents. And a reversal of that pattern seems terribly unlikely in the near future.
In other words, the cost of a four-year education will be considerably more than four times the tab of freshman year.