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What Does it Cost to Attend American University?

College costs are rising, and as they do, so do concerns from families who wonder just how much they’ll need to finance a college education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2016 more than 85% of college students were receiving financial aid. This is no wonder, considering that the average family pays over $100,000 for a four-year college diploma from a private university.


One issue that makes college funding especially complex is the broad range of costs that families cover out of pocket. The factors that impact these college costs are many, and it’s unlikely that any single family will end up spending the same amount as their neighbors, even if the students attend the same school. In this series, we take a closer look at college costs and how much your family might expect to pay. To find out how much you might spend at American University, keep reading.


Why Are College Costs So Variable?


There are lots of factors that affect how much a family pays for college, and because it’s rare for all these factors to align in exactly the same way from one family to another, it’s hard to predict just how much you can expect to spend. Taking a closer look at the factors that impact cost is your best bet towards understanding your upcoming expenses.


The primary factor to affect college costs is a college’s sticker price. This is also called the list price and it’s essentially the amount that a family pays without any financial assistance. This usually includes tuition, room and board, and any required fees. For schools with a large number of commuter students, room and board may be excluded, so always confirm exactly what’s included when you compare list prices.


List price is a good starting point, but net price is more applicable to most families. The average net price at a school is the average cost out of pocket for families. This depends on a few different factors, including institutional aid, merit aid, and federal, state, and local aid. Because the amounts of aid that families receive from different sources can vary, net cost is unlikely to be the same from one family to another, but average net cost can give you a better idea of how much families typically pay at a certain college.


What Is the List Price at American University?


At American University, the list price in 2016-2017 was $62,272. This includes tuition and room and board. Because American University is a private school, list price is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.


That said, few students should expect to pay list price. Those who typically do pay list price have an annual combined family income of $175k or more.


What is the Net Cost of Attending American University?


After accounting for financial aid, students at American University generally don’t pay the entire list price. The average net price at American University in 2016-2017 was $54,272. For students who don’t qualify for financial aid, the average net price of attending American University is $58,680.


What Is the Net Cost Based on Income of Attending American University?


The number one factor to affect how much aid a family receives is annual income. In order to narrow down costs, it makes sense to break down costs according to income levels. At American University, the average net cost by income level breaks down as follows.


Family Income Average Net Price
$0-$30,000 $22,681
$30,001-$48,000 $22,447
$48,001-$75,000 $26,394
$75,001-$110,000 $31,693
$110,000+ $46,282


How Much Merit Aid is Typically Awarded at American University?


Merit aid is not uncommon at American University. In fact, in 2017, 23.6% of students without financial need were awarded merit aid. The average merit aid award for a student without financial need was $3,592. 

How Many Students Take Out Loans to Attend American University?


Taking out a loan to attend American University is not unusual, but it’s not common practice either. In 2017, 23% of students had loans as part of their college funding. The average federal student loan per undergraduate student at American University was $6,609.


Student Outcomes


The initial high cost of a college education can be justified by its long term benefits. In fact, people with a college diploma generally have a much higher earning potential than those without. At American University, 80% of students pursuing a degree are able to finish it within six years. The average salary ten years after graduation is $61,000.


Local Area Cost Considerations


During the course of a college degree, costs aside from tuition, room and board, and fees are bound to accumulate. These might include things like groceries, transportation, or off campus housing. Because of this, it’s a good idea to consider the local economy as you think about the cost of living.


American University is located in Washington, DC.  The cost of living index in Washington, DC is 173.9, meaning that it is nearly 74% above the national average. The two factors with the greatest impact on the high cost of living there include transportation costs and housing. In Washington, DC, you can expect to pay over $1400 per month for a studio rental, or $2200 per month for a 3-bedroom.


The job market in Washington, DC is not great, but it has improved recently. The unemployment rate is 5.6%, which is 1.7% above average, but job growth is also above average and is predicted to continue to climb. Minimum wage in Washington, DC is $13.25/hr and the median hourly wage is $33.82.


Other Ways to Help Fund a College Education


Scholarships are another great way to help fund a college education, and scholarship programs exist in many shapes and forms across the country.


One of the most well known scholarship programs in the country is the National Merit Scholarship Program. This program attracts over a million participants each year and entering is easy. In fact, every high school junior who takes the PSAT is eligible for recognition based on his or her scores. Other students are also recognized for their PSAT scores through the National Hispanic Recognition Program and other awards sponsored by corporations or individual colleges. To learn more about the program, check out our post How to Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.


There are countless other scholarship opportunities also, ranging from large and national competitions, to local or highly specialized awards. You can learn more about some of these opportunities by checking out these CollegeVine posts:


15 College Scholarships for High School Juniors

15 College Scholarship Resources for High School Students

A Guide to STEM Scholarships

Scholarships and Competitions for students in the Performing Arts


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.