Average Private vs Public College Tuition

Last Updated: October 11, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. Annually, private tuition from a 4-year undergraduate college is more than 3 times the cost of public tuition from the same type of school.

  • The average annual cost of public tuition from a 4-year undergraduate college is $9,580.
  • The average annual cost of private tuition from a 4-year undergraduate college is $33,150.
  • On average, the cost of tuition for a graduate degree from a 4-year private college annually is $37,290 vs $10,195 from a public college.
  • On average, out-of-state tuition from a 4-year undergraduate college is $26,382.

Related reports include Average Cost of College | Average Cost of Community College | Average Cost of Private School | Average Cost of College Credit Hour | Average Cost of College by State

College Examples of Average Private vs Public Tuition

At the individual college level, the annual cost of private college tuition is much greater than the cost of public tuition. These annual costs were based off of an average 12 to 15 credit hour semester.

  • The table below uses the undergraduate in-state cost of college for public schools.
  • The table below alternates between public college and private college examples within the same state.
  • Fees include miscellaneous expenses such as health services fee, technology services fee, a financial aid fee, or use of athletic equipment fee.
College Examples of the Cost of Tuition Private vs Public
College Annual Cost of Tuition & Fees Total Cost of Tuition & Fees for a 4-year Degree
Florida Atlantic University (Public) $5,488 $21,952
Ave Maria University (Private) $23,521 $94,084
University of California, Berkeley (Public) $14,254 $57,016
Santa Clara University (Private) $55,224 $220,896
Binghamton University (Public) $7,070 $28,280
Columbia University (Private) $30,257 $121,028
University of Kansas (Public) $10,092 $40,380
Newman University (Private) $32,400 $129,600
Murray State University (Public) $9,168 $36,672
Centre College (Private) $46,000 $184,000

Annual Change in the Cost of Average Private vs Public College Tuition

Generally, the yearly rise in college tuition affects both private and public colleges, but private colleges remain more expensive than public ones. Whether the private college is a 2-year or 4- year school, private colleges remain more expensive than their public counterparts.

  • By 2021, the annual price of tuition at a public 4 year college rose 2.78 times its rate in 1990.
  • By 2021, the annual price of tuition at a private nonprofit 4 year college rose 2.03 times its rate in 1990.
  • The price disparity between a private 4 year college’s tuition and a public 4 year college’s tuition in 1963 was $6,554
  • Today, the price difference between a private 4 year college’s tuition and public 4 year college’s tuition is $23,570.
  • The annual cost of tuition from a private 4 year college has risen $24,518 since 1963.
  • The annual cost of tuition from a public 4 year college has risen $7,502 since 1963.

Historicaltuitioncostsin2021dollars on EducationData

Average Private vs Public College Tuition – by State

With the exception of Idaho, private tuition is more expensive than public tuition in every other state. The table below uses the undergraduate in-state cost of public tuition from 4-year colleges and not the out-of-state prices.

  • Idaho is the only state where the annual cost of public tuition is greater than the private cost of college – by $1,447.
  • Massachusetts has the greatest disparity in cost between private and public tuition – private tuition is $32,730 more annually.
  • Utah has the smallest disparity in cost between private and public tuition – private tuition is only $1,121 more annually.
Table of Private vs Public College Tuition by State
State Average Annual Public Tuition & Fees Cost Average Annual Private Tuition & Fees Cost
Alabama $10,138 $16,119
Alaska $8,396 $19,315
Arizona $10,666 $12,711
Arkansas $8,391 $23,179
California $8,118 $35,524
Colorado $9,394 $23,560
Connecticut $12,959 $41,807
Delaware $10,607 $14,758
Florida $4,443 $26,317
Georgia $7,319 $28,839
Hawaii $9,952 $17,098
Idaho $7,586 $6,139
Illinois $14,259 $33,454
Indiana $9,225 $33,402
Iowa $9,966 $33,821
Kansas $8,941 $31,701
Kentucky $10,674 $27,648
Louisiana $9,358 $37,830
Maine $9,930 $38,972
Maryland $9,521 $43,141
Massachusetts $13,286 $46,016
Michigan $12,888 $27,936
Minnesota $11,381 $33,212
Mississippi $8,340 $17,953
Missouri $8,554 $25,417
Montana $6,972 $25,918
Nebraska $8,467 $25,075
Nevada $5,845 $24,423
New Hampshire $16,329 $33,364
New Jersey $13,963 $37,329
New Mexico $6,902 $30,137
New York $8,184 $40,527
North Carolina $7,174 $33,990
North Dakota $8,091 $15,206
Ohio $10,068 $32,597
Oklahoma $7,866 $27,694
Oregon $10,286 $40,597
Pennsylvania $14,812 $41,703
Rhode Island $12,576 $42,108
South Carolina $13,013 $25,621
South Dakota $8,772 $23,252
Tennessee $9,789 $28,080
Texas $8,678 $34,476
Utah $6,731 $7,852
Vermont $16,604 $44,068
Virginia $13,413 $23,380
Washington $7,036 $38,754
West Virginia $8,016 $12,513
Wisconsin $8,697 $34,424
Wyoming $4,596

Average Private vs Out-of-State Public College Tuition

An out-of-state education changes the price of public tuition, but usually not private tuition. Whether private or public tuition is cheaper out-of-state often depends on the state itself.

  • Idaho’s average annual public out-of-state tuition is $17,711 more than its private tuition.
  • New York’s average annual private tuition is $18,444 more than its public out-of-state tuition.
  • On average, annual out-of-state tuition is nearly 3 times the amount of annual in-state tuition.
  • On average, annual out-of-state tuition is $26,382 vs $33,150 for annual private tuition.
Table of Private vs Public College Tuition by Out-of-State Costs
State Average Annual Public Tuition & Fees Cost Average Annual Private Tuition & Fees Cost
Alabama $25,782 $16,119
Alaska $24,454 $19,315
Arizona $26,383 $12,711
Arkansas $20,825 $23,179
California $31,423 $35,524
Colorado $30,140 $23,560
Connecticut $33,709 $41,807
Delaware $30,405 $14,758
Florida $18,456 $26,317
Georgia $22,751 $28,839
Hawaii $31,581 $17,098
Idaho $23,850 $6,139
Illinois $28,522 $33,454
Indiana $43,762 $33,402
Iowa $24,521 $33,821
Kansas $23,302 $22,571
Kentucky $25,430 $27,648
Louisiana $22,208 $37,830
Maine $27,735 $38,972
Maryland $26,883 $43,141
Massachusetts $30,966 $46,016
Michigan $35,844 $27,936
Minnesota $22,780 $33,212
Mississippi $19,942 $17,953
Missouri $19,914 $25,417
Montana $24,481 $25,918
Nebraska $21,516 $25,075
Nevada $21,125 $24,423
New Hampshire $29,447 $33,364
New Jersey $28,669 $37,329
New Mexico $18,350 $30,137
New York $22,083 $40,527
North Carolina $22,968 $33,990
North Dakota $15,565 $15,206
Ohio $24,454 $32,597
Oklahoma $21,526 $27,694
Oregon $30,929 $40,597
Pennsylvania $28,527 $41,703
Rhode Island $29,998 $42,108
South Carolina $32,174 $25,621
South Dakota $12,465 $23,252
Tennessee $26,068 $28,080
Texas $25,031 $34,476
Utah $21,557 $7,852
Vermont $39,947 $44,068
Virginia $34,890 $23,380
Washington $29,228 $38,754
West Virginia $21,996 $12,513
Wisconsin $25,063 $34,424
Wyoming $14,268

Average Private vs Public Tuition at the Graduate Level

Graduate degrees are no exception to the all around rising cost of tuition. Master’s degrees typically take an extra 2 years after a Bachelor’s degree to complete. Doctoral degrees can be anywhere from 4 to 6 years after the undergraduate degree. Doctoral degrees saw the largest increase in tuition since last year.

  • The annual cost of a Master’s degree at a public 4-year college increased by $90 since last year.
  • The annual cost of a Master’s degree at a private 4-year college increased by $150 since last year.
  • The cost of a Doctoral degree from a public 4-year institution increased by $150 since last year.
  • The cost of a Doctoral degree from a private 4-year institution increased by $1,280 since last year.
  • The average annual cost of tuition for a graduate degree from a private college is $37,290 vs $10,195 from a public college.

Public vs Private Tuition Graduate Degrees on EducationData

Sources

  1. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Tuition costs of colleges and universities
  2. NCES: Table 330.20 Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates
  3. CollegeBoard: Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020
  4. USAFacts: College tuition has increased – but what’s the actual cost?
  5. National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO): Private College Tuition Discounting Continued Upward Trend During COVID-19 Pandemic