Financial Cost of a College Degree: Penn State and her Big Ten Peers

  • Post last modified:May 22, 2023

What does a Penn State Bachelor’s Degree really cost?
How many dollars will you have to pay Penn State for your Bachelor’s Degree?
Answering that question may be less straightforward than you would expect, and the answer may be a lot higher than you think.

8 ball hazy

As most students (and their parents) are aware, there is a lot of obfuscation with regard to the actual cost of a college education. While all Universities clearly publish their “sticker price” rates for tuition, that really is just the starting point.

Among the factors that can significantly alter the actual costs charged to the student (or their parents):

1) Mandatory Fees: These are charges that are not included in their published Tuition rates, even though they have to be paid by the student in order to attend. Usually given rather obfuscating names like “Student Services Fee”, or “Activities Fee”

2) Higher Tuition Rates for Upperclassmen/Specific Majors: Many universities – including Penn State – charge higher rates of tuition for upperclassmen, or for specific majors (while the published tuition rate is usually the lowest base rate charged to freshmen students).

3) Merit and Need-Based Grants: Just as importantly, each University may reduce the net cost to students by providing either Need-Based Grants or Merit-Based Scholarships. Each University awards these grants to individual students, at different levels, and the grants reduce the net price – and the financial burden – placed on the backs of their students.

So, what is the actual cost of a four-year degree at Penn State, and at her Big Ten peers?

We have the data from each of the Big Ten universities – for the 2018-2019 academic year – so lets take a look.
In each case, to keep things apples-to-apples, we will look at the costs for an In-State Student, Enrolled Full-time, in the University’s College of Business, receiving the Average Level of Grants for the particular University.

At Penn State, that cost is $73,992 – nearly double the Big Ten average of $37,040.

For each school, we will start with the base tuition rate. At Penn State that is $17,416/year times four years = $69,664
And then add in mandatory fees. At Penn State, $1,038/yr times four years = $4,152
And then, Upperclassmen Surcharges. At Penn State, for Junior and Senior years, the upperclassmen surcharge of $3,364/yr times two years = $6,728
And subtract out grants. At Penn State they average Merit-Based ($453/yr) and Need-Based ($1,185/yr) aid, times four years = minus $6,552

Total = $73,992

True Cost of 4 Year Degree

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