Posted in HS4CC

Show Me the Money!

Common sense college planning is based on the foundation of knowing what you’re buying, and step 1 is getting real numbers on paper – today!

If you don’t know the exact per tuition costs of your community college and state college, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.  EVEN IF you don’t think your teen will attend one of those colleges, knowing those numbers will help you compare and contrast against other colleges!

While there are always variables within the college cost breakdown (textbooks, meals, insurance, transportation, housing, fees, etc.) the one number that sits cut and dry is tuition.  I’m not going to deny that tuition only represents a portion of the cost, but it’s one portion of the cost that you can’t really negotiate. For instance, a motivated student can find ways to cut living expenses and textbooks, but tuition costs are a brick wall!


Once you have both numbers, you’ll at least have an idea of what kind of costs you’ll have to pay if your teen attends college locally, and you can start finding ways to reduce the number of credits you have to pay for through resourceful high school planning!

I’ll do it with you…

My local community college is Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. I googled them to find their website:

From there, I needed to search “tuition” to get an actual number.  Sometimes this isn’t as easy as it should be!

So I now know it costs $76 per credit at my community college.  Step 1 finished!

Now, on to my state university! When I get to my state university’s page, I have to look through several links to find the actual dollar amount, but then I hit a snag……

I found the tuition amount, but it’s not listed per credit – it’s listed as one bulk amount!

If that happens to you, don’t panic. Colleges estimate that a student will complete 30 credits per year, so I’ll just have to do the math long-hand.

$3812 divided by 30 = $127.06

$127.06 is the price per credit if my teen completes 30 credits, so I can use that number.

But then I hit another snag…..

I notice that there are a lot of costs, and at the bottom of the table I see that the costs in italics (tuition and fees) will be part of my bill. That means that I’ll get billed those no matter what- the other costs are variable and are only estimates. This is great because that means we’ll have control over those costs!

I’m not especially thrilled to pay $3,377 extra dollars in “fees” especially when I can’t find what they cover, but I’ll make a note to investigate the fees later if we choose this college.

Now I’m armed with my numbers

            • Community College:  $76/credt
            • State College or University: $127/credit

Once I have these numbers, I can play around and see how the decisions we make in high school impact our overall college budget.  For instance, knowing these numbers allows me to:

  1. Calculate how much I save using our free dual enrollment program! Since my local community college waives tuition for high school students, I can calculate that every 3 credit course we take through dual enrollment saves me $228 over the rack rate tuition cost I’d pay after graduation. A full 2-year degree (60 credits) earned in high school saves $4,560!
  2. Calculate how much I can save choosing the community college for my teen’s lower-level general education courses instead of taking them at the university.  While the price difference doesn’t seem like a lot ($127 – $76 = $51 difference) I can make the most of this difference by taking these courses for $0 in high school!
  3. I can calculate the costs of any degree by multiplying by the number of credits we need. For an associate’s degree (60 credits), I multiply $76 x 60 = $4,560.  For a bachelor’s degree (120 credits), I multiply $127 x 120 = $15,240.
  4. I can compare these costs for this degree at these schools against our out of state and private options. Since my state’s average private tuition costs about $1,600 per credit, I can calculate that $1600 x 120 credits = $192,000.  (!)

From these numbers, I can build a plan

11th Grade 12th Grade Post-high school year 1 Post-high school year 2
Free dual enrollment tuition at the community college.  Goal:  30 credits Free dual enrollment tuition at the community college.

Goal:  30 credits

(complete AA degree)

Apply to the local university as a freshman* but start the junior year.

Goal:  30 credits

$127 x 30

Finish senior year of college.

Goal:  30 credits

Graduate with a BA degree!

$127 x 30

$0 $0 $3,810 $3,810

*College credit earned during high school keeps your teen a “first-time freshman” college applicant and scholarship applicant.  

Your numbers will differ from mine, but this kind of common sense college planning is the first step of many that help you identify and plan for the BIG expenses of college that are around the corner, and if you identify them early enough, you might just be able to save BIG!

Other HS4CC posts and pages you might like to read:

Transfer Credit for the Win

Does Walmart Really Pay for College?

Find Your State HS4CC Facebook Group


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit