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College costs include tuition, fees, room and board (that means your dorm and meal plan), and other living expenses. It’s important to take all variables into account. A college's "cost of attendance" is the estimated sum of all of these parts.
The sum of tuition, fees, room & board averaged for a public college and $48,510 for a private college in 2018.
The price on the college website is not necessarily what you’ll pay. Net price is the actual cost you’ll pay after grants and scholarships are taken into account. The net price can be paid using savings, income, or by taking out loans.
Make sure you look first at fixed expenses (items that will be billed by the school and are non-negotiable, such as tuition). Then look at variable expenses like transportation - they are more fluid. Your budget should have room for both. Use college-provided cost estimates as a starting point, but adjust for your own situation.
It depends. Many won’t include merit aid, and they can often be either out of date or overly conservative. Net price calculators provide a useful data point, but your research should not stop there.