How Does a College Actually Use Your Tuition?

Tuition questions are some of the most prominent questions that an aspiring college student may have. From questions about how you’re going to pay for your tuition to questions about what the tuition even goes toward, it’s common for upcoming college students to wonder about tuition. If you’ve wondered what your tuition actually goes toward before, here’s what you need to know.

$100 of Tuition

When you want to get a better understanding of your tuition spending, you may first want to understand tuition in the form of $100. An entire budget can be a bit much to wrap your mind around, but $100 is an understandable amount of money.

So, what will a college do with $100 of your tuition money? $61.46 of that money will go toward things that are “academically necessary” for you to succeed. That includes all of these things:

  • $15.81 – Salaries
  • $11.47 – General Instruction Expenses
  • $9.61 – Auxiliary Student Enterprises
  • $8.26 – Academic Support
  • $8.15 – Institutional Support
  • $4.75 – Student Services
  • $3.41 – Grants and Financial Aid

However, that still leaves $38.54. Essentially, this remaining amount of money goes toward things that aren’t technically “necessary,” but are still important for a college or university’s continuing existence. The college will spend that remaining money like this on average:

  • $15.58 – Hospitals and Healthcare
  • $11.66 – Research
  • $6.25 – Other, Including Taxes and Liabilities
  • $4.52 – Public Services
  • $0.53 – Independent Operations

As you can see, colleges do spend most of the money you give them back on things that help you maintain a healthy and happy college experience.

Private Versus Public College

What’s the difference between a private college and a public college? If you’re going to look into the difference between these two, there are a number of things you can address, but one main difference between private and public colleges is the cost.

The College Board did a survey of colleges in the 2019/2020 school year to find out the average cost for colleges in this year. For tuition, room and board, and all fees, a public school cost $21,950 per year. However, a private school cost $49,870. That’s more than twice as expensive, which makes it a little easier to understand why people are flocking to public schools more and more.

Tuition as a Percentage of Operating Costs

There are many tuition trends out there, but tuition as a percentage of operating costs is one of the more interesting trends. Colleges and universities use all sorts of income streams to cover their operating costs, including government grants and endowments.

Tuition is just one of these operating streams, and in 2000, tuition made up around 29.2% of a public college’s revenue stream. Over the years, however, tuition has massively increased, with a more than 25% increase in the last decade. That means that by 2018, this percentage had jumped all the way up to 46.6%.


Regardless of why you’re hoping to talk about tuition, it’s true that there are many elements of tuition that you might want to discuss. Whether you’re talking to someone at your school, one of your friends, or even a political figure, tuition is something that you should have a good grasp on. This information will hopefully give you more that you can use to understand tuition even more effectively.

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