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Why Is College So Expensive And What Can You Do

Jul 8, 2019

Average cost of college.

If you’re preparing to go to college, you may get serious sticker shock when you realize what the tuition will cost you. And that’s not considering books, housing, and living expenses. There’s a very valid reason for your sticker shock: college tuition prices have risen steadily since the 1990s and are higher than they’ve ever been before. 

In 2017 the average cost for college tuition (not including room and board) was nearly $7,000 per semester. Adding room and board, living expenses, and other fees brought the yearly average for college students to over $25,000. This is an astronomical amount that most people simply can’t afford.

If this cost seems out of your reach, you’re not alone—but you are in luck. WGU is one of the institutions that works to make college more affordable. Our average tuition is less than half the national average, and it’s charged at a flat rate per six-month term (which is longer than most semesters at traditional colleges). This gives you much more bang for your buck, especially if you complete extra courses in your term (at no extra cost). And because WGU is entirely online, you don’t have to worry about additional room and board fees or other living expenses. 

Discover why traditional colleges around the country are rising in price and how you can find options that are affordable for you.

Why is college so expensive?


More than ever before, students are seeking a college degree—and for good reason. A new study estimates that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require a college education. As more jobs require a diploma, more students are flocking to schools to get one. In fact, the current generation is the highest educated of all the generations, and it looks like the trend of higher education is only going to continue to grow. This means that universities are in high demand and can raise tuition to meet that demand. 

WGU has seen higher demand right along with the traditional universities. Luckily, WGU has more options to meet that demand and doesn’t require a steep tuition hike in order to function. An entirely online program means that an increase in demand doesn’t have the same direct impact on the school, allowing a larger number of students who want to get their degree the access they need to succeed.

State funding cuts.

Public universities around the country rely on their state government for funding. However, in the past 10 years, state funding has decreased by over $7 billion, forcing public universities to raise their tuition steadily as they try to compensate for the loss in funding they are experiencing. As a result, the cost is put on students. This dip in state funding is likely a direct result of the 2008 recession, as budgets were reallocated and adjusted to meet other needs. 

WGU doesn’t rely on state funding for its continued function, so this cut-back from the states doesn’t directly impact tuition prices, the school itself, or the students. WGU was designed to be self-sustaining on tuition—so it was designed to operate as efficiently as possible. It’s one of the reasons WGU is one of the most affordable options in getting higher education in the country. 

Availability of financial aid.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the availability of financial aid could be a factor in growing tuition prices. Currently, the government will match student loan amounts to cost-of-attendance, so universities can raise prices without being concerned that they will price-out potential students. This allows universities to raise tuition rates, knowing that students will be able to rely on financial aid to make up the difference. While the availability of financial aid is vital to help many students afford their education, it leaves students saddled with debt for years after they graduate—and it is one of the drivers of skyrocketing tuition.

Administrative costs.

Some research suggests that universities have too many administrative costs and that these costs can only be met by increasing the amount that students pay. Things like increased faculty to meet growing demands, administrative costs to maintain buildings and grounds, and staff members needed to accommodate student needs are all growing—and costing—more. Some experts believe this is actually administrative bloat, and that some of these expenses aren’t needed. Unfortunately, this increase in administrative costs usually falls on students in fees and tuition.

WGU is one of the few universities that doesn’t have this administrative bloat. Because the school is completely online, there aren’t costs for things like buildings, sports teams, campus events, and the added cost of faculty and staff needed to accommodate those areas. WGU can focus administrative costs on helping students with their coursework and making sure the programs are the best they can possibly be. Students see this in the abundance of faculty and staff that are there to help them, as well as in their lower tuition and fee costs.

How to pay for college.

With the rising costs of education, it can be intimidating to think about how you will afford it. But there are many options for you to get the financing you need so you can pursue higher education.


Completing your FAFSA is a vital first step in getting help when paying for your college degree. The FAFSA form helps you determine your financial aid eligibility from the government. Most federal financial aid will come in the form of pell grants and student loans. Both of these options help students have the funds to pay for their degrees.

WGU has fewer students with student loans, and the loans that those students have are less than the national average. This means that an education at WGU gives you the option to have federal help, but often you need much less in student loans than other college students due to low tuition prices and additional financing opportunities.


Individuals, schools, and organizations offer scholarships to help students continue to find ways to pay for their schooling. Scholarships can be offered for a variety of reasons: from academic achievement and financial need to specific types of students in certain programs. There may be individual requirements you have to meet, but there are likely many different scholarships you can apply and qualify for.


Even with financial aid options, the average cost of tuition for a degree can be expensive. Many students find that budgeting can help them save up for paying for college costs. Simple things like eating out less, canceling subscriptions you don’t use, and clipping coupons can help you meet your budgetary goals and more easily afford your college tuition and fees.

Understand how much your tuition, books, and fees will cost so you can properly prepare and budget. There are dozens of budget programs to help you prepare to meet your goals, or something simple like Excel or a pad of paper can help you accomplish the same goal.

Research affordable universities.

Do your research so you can find the best, affordable college for you. Compare the average tuition prices and fees at universities, ask for all the specific fees that you’ll be expected to pay, and make sure you really understand what your bill will be. It may be smart to talk to staff members at the universities you’re interested in so you can really understand any program or college fees you may have to pay.

WGU is one of the most affordable universities in the country. WGU only charges tuition per six-month term, which is longer than most other college terms. This means you’re getting more bang for your buck. If you’ve been searching for an affordable university, WGU could be the perfect fit for you.

College costs are rising, but that doesn’t mean that it’s out of your reach. You can do your part to find and pay for the perfect university for you.

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