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Costs to Consider when Choosing a College

People aren’t exaggerating when they say that college is an investment into your future. That’s never been truer than in today’s education and job market, where rising tuition and other expenses make it increasingly difficult for students to invest in their long-term income-earning potential—without going into excessive debt.

Going to College Doesn’t Have to Mean Going into Debt

Thankfully, you have options when it comes to pursuing (and paying for) an education. The traditional 4-year college approach (and crippling debt) is no longer a given. And, guess what? A skills-based education that offers work experience, specific industry knowledge and internships is what most of today’s hiring managers are looking for when they review your resume.

What does this mean for you? Well, as you’re making decisions about where to attend college, and what you want to major in, it pays to do your research. Research shows that a skills-based education is not only far more marketable when you graduate , but it’s also markedly more affordable. Plus, you have the added benefit of building a targeted skill-set to get entry-level employment right away, so you can pay for continued school expenses as you go.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay at a typical 4-year institution, versus what you’ll pay at a technical or 2-year college that offers mostly transferable 2-year degrees and skills-based certificates.

Tuition and Fees

The average cost for 2 semesters of full-time resident tuition and fees at a public 4-year college in 2019-2020 was $10,440. This included not only tuition costs, but various fees to support college services such as the library, computer lab, school athletics and spirit programs, and campus transportation. These fees vary based on the college you attend, but are typically higher than at a smaller college with fewer extracurricular activities and programs. You can also expect to pay substantially more than this at a private 4-year college, as well as if you choose an out-of-state option.

2-year colleges like Ensign College (formerly LDS Business College) offer a much less expensive approach to a higher education. Not only does it take less time to get a degree, but the curriculum is geared by industry professionals to give you specific tools and experience employers in that industry are searching for. And, because of its affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church members receive discounted tuition rates.

Currently, Church members can attend two semesters at Ensign College for only $3,766 . Yes, you read that right! Non-Church Members can still attend two semesters for only $7,532.

Room and Board

Typically, room and board refers to the cost of renting housing on or off campus, plus the cost of food. Many college students choose to purchase a meal plan in college—either because they don’t have access to a kitchen, or simply to enjoy the convenience of having regular meals prepared for them.

Keep in mind that your costs will vary depending on what type of housing you choose, and how often you choose to use a meal plan rather than preparing your own food. However, the average price for room and board at a public 4-year college in 2019-2020 was around $11,510 .

If you choose to go the 2-year college route, you can expect to pay far less in room and board costs. Ensign College, for example, currently averages only $6,200 for 2 semesters of room and board. All of their housing options are off-campus, but located within a few miles of their downtown Salt Lake City location. A full-time meal plan (3 meals, 5 days a week) is just $500 per semester, and is included in that cost.

Books and Supplies

The cost of college textbooks has risen an incredible 1,041% since 1977, according to a review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data performed by NBC in 2015. This increase is over three times the rate of inflation. Students can expect to pay a staggering $1,200 on average each year for books and supplies.

At smaller schools like Ensign College, textbook and supply costs are significantly cheaper, coming in at a surprisingly low $200 per academic year.


The average student living on campus at a 4-year college can expect to pay anywhere from $1,050 – $1,800 yearly for transportation costs. This figure does not include the cost of parking, or the additional funds necessary to travel home to family on holidays or during summer break.

Of course, your transportation costs can be significantly reduced or even eliminated if the college you attend provides a free public transportation pass to students. Public transportation allows you the freedom to study on your commute, and liberates you from the hassles of navigating traffic and parking. Not only can you save on gas and maintenance costs for a vehicle, but you avoid parking fees altogether.

You’ve Got Options.

There is no question that the rising cost of attending college can seem overwhelming when you’re first starting out. That’s why it’s important to consider all of your options as you research. You might find yourself challenging those preconceived notions about what a college education really means, how much it should cost, and above all, what you should expect to leave with when you graduate.

To learn more about the specific costs to attend Ensign College, visit: .

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