Whether you’re embarking on the college search for the first time, or it has been a while since you first looked at colleges, you may not know how college pricing works. And that’s ok. Unlike most purchases in life, the cost of college doesn’t fall under one blanket sticker price. Rather, it’s itemized, and sometimes vague. For instance, what are the “fees” included in “tuition and fees?” As you tour college campuses, you’ll find that you’re encouraged to peek into dorm rooms and peruse through dining halls. You may even eat in one. You’ll likely leave wondering, “How much does this part of the college experience cost?!” Campus amenities, spacious residential halls, and fancy dining spaces seem like they would add up – and they do.So are they included with tuition and fees? Or are they a separate entity?For students at private, four-year colleges, room and board is significantly cheaper than what they’re paying in tuition and fees. However, for students at public two-year, or even public four-year colleges, the price of room and board can be higher, and at times significantly more so, than tuition. In CollegeBoard’s Trends in College Pricing for 2021, the average room and board costs for a student at a private, four-year college averaged at $13,620 per year. For a student at a two-year commuter college, the average was $9,330.Believe it or not, colleges are not trying to trick you into paying more for college than what you were originally told, or originally found in your research. Throughout the process, you may have an admissions officer quote you the price for each component of the school. You may also receive an email or packet in the mail that lists out the price for each portion. Furthermore, there is one place that you will always be able to find this information: on the college’s financial aid webpage. There, they will list the different components of a college education, along with the cost. You’ll find: • Tuition • Room and board • Mandatory fees You may also find estimated costs for the following: • Books and supplies • Transportation • Student health insurance Ten years ago, the Higher Education Act was amended to require colleges to post a Net Price Calculator on their website. A Net Price Calculator allows a family to see an estimate of the cost of that particular college. To begin, families are asked about income, the student’s GPA, and a few other questions. The Net Price Calculator then identifies how much the student may receive in merit or institutional scholarships, how much the family will have to contribute, as well as financial suggestions for how to pay the remaining balance. A Net Price Calculator will enable you to find the true cost for each college you’re considering. Make sure you go through the process on each college’s site so that you can compare costs accurately. One school’s net price may look drastically different from another.