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Costs of a College Degree

College degrees, if they're worth more than the paper they're printed on, don't come cheap. And according to the latest figures from the College Board, a nonprofit association of schools and other educational organizations committed to connecting students to college success and opportunity, the costs of a college degree are on the rise. So just how much does college cost?

Tuition and fees
Check out the College Board's breakdown of average annual tuition and fees in 2009-2010:

Private colleges: $26,273
Public colleges: $7,020

Additional costs
Tuition and fees are just part of the college cost picture, of course. Don't forget to factor in room and board, which runs about $7,404 at public four-year colleges and $8,595 at private four-year colleges, bringing your total charges up to $24,044 at public schools and $32,307 at private schools. Books and supplies (about $988), transportation ($768-$1,284), and personal expenses ($1,311-$2,138) should be factored into your higher ed budget as well.

Choosing wisely
Remember, the figures listed above are just averages. It's possible to spend much less than the average and still receive a top-notch college degree. Case in point: about 56 percent of students enrolled at four-year colleges attend schools that charge annual tuition and fees of less than $9,000. Only about 6 percent of all students attend colleges with annual tuition and fees totaling $33,000 or higher. You don't have to be one of them.

Financial aid figures
More good news: you don't have to cover the college cost alone. In fact, according to the College Board, about two-thirds of all full-time undergraduate students receive grant aid. In 2007-2008, students at public four-year colleges received about $3,600 each in financial aid grants and tax benefits. That figure rose to $9,300 for students at private four-year colleges.

The payoff
Once you've earned a bachelor's degree, the College Board reports that you can earn over 60 percent more than those with only a high school diploma. Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree is more than $800,000.

College degrees don't come cheap. But isn't the payoff worth it?