What Does Your College Tuition Really Go Toward?

College tuition is nothing if not a bit of a sticky subject nowadays. It’s something that many people will talk about, whether they’re college students, friends of college students, politicians, or just someone who wants to learn more about college and tuition. If you’re looking for a way to understand more about your college tuition, here’s what you need to know about what your college tuition actually pays for.

Breaking Down $100 of Tuition

Although you can often find a college’s budget available more or less freely through the United States Department of Education, these budgets can be difficult to untangle when they utilize hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, consider how a college would spend $100 of your tuition.

When you give a college $100 of tuition, how will they spend it? First and foremost, $61.46 on average will go directly to the costs of your education. Here’s how the college will more than likely split it up:

  • $15.81 – Salaries
  • $11.47 – General Instruction Expenses
  • $9.61 – Auxiliary Enterprises
  • $8.26 – Academic Support Expenses
  • $8.15 – Institutional Support
  • $4.75 – Student Services
  • $3.41 – Grants to Students

On the other side, the other $38.54 goes to expenses that aren’t explicitly part of your education. Some of these things may be beneficial for certain majors, but they’re not necessarily part of your education expenses directly.

  • $15.58 – College Hospitals
  • $11.66 – Research
  • $6.25 – Other Expenses
  • $4.52 – Public Service
  • $0.53 – Independent Operations

Of course, this is on average; not every college will split things up exactly like this. However, it’s a good way to understand how colleges will split up your tuition when you give it to them.

Private Versus Public College Expenses

Private and public colleges spend things a bit differently. If you ask anyone the difference between private and public colleges, there are a number of things that people will typically bring up. However, one thing that most people will bring up is the fact that private colleges often cost a lot more than public colleges.

This is definitely the truth. In the 2019-2020 academic school year, the College Board reported that on average, a full-time student attending an in-state public school was paying $21,950 yearly for tuition, room and board, and associated fees. A student attending a private college was paying $49,870.

This means that if you’re attending a public four-year school, you’re paying around $36 per class. If you’re attending a private school, you’re paying around $125 per class. This discrepancy can explain why so many people are moving to public colleges, especially as finances get tighter and tighter for the majority of people.


There are a number of things that impact where your college tuition goes. It’s not as easy as just knowing your college’s budget; tuition goes toward a wide variety of things, and that variety may have an impact on many different facets of your education. However, knowledge is power — after all, that’s why people go to college in the first place. If you want to be more knowledgeable about college tuition, hopefully this information has given you that knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *