Educator Toolbox

TXGU Activity: How Much Does College Cost?


Created By:
 Texas GEAR UP

Grade Level: 7th/8th

Introduction for Educators: Life would be easier if everything had clear and straightforward price tags. As an adult, you know it's not that simple. There is a seemingly endless array of factors that can increase or decrease the actual amount that college costs. Help your students understand the various costs they will have to pay. This will keep them from getting tripped up along the way. 

Introduction for Students: Price tags are on everything in every store, but it hasn’t always been that way. The Quakers, a Christian group in the 17th century, invented price tags as a way of making sure they charged everyone an equal and fair amount for goods.

Of course, the price tag for college is a little more complex. Just because a college claims to cost a certain price, that doesn't mean that’s exactly what you’ll have to pay. If you're going to pay for college, you'll need to determine what the price really includes. 

The Activity: How much does college cost? It's a complicated question. Let's get something to count with, like jelly beans. Take ten jelly beans and spread them out on the table. Now consider some imaginary college costs:

  • Public school tuition: 5 jelly beans
  • Ivy League tuition: 8 jelly beans
  • Room and board: 2 jelly beans
  • Books and supplies: 1 jelly bean
  • Additional food and entertainment: 1 jelly bean
  • Transportation and utilities: 1 jelly bean
  • Taxes: 1 jelly bean
  • Scholarship based on high school performance: -1 jelly bean
  • Grants for minority students: -1 jelly bean
  • Grants for work-study: -1 jelly bean

Now try creating different combinations of jelly beans. The cost of college is much more than tuition. Add the cost of tuition and other needs (like books or transportation), and subtract any grants or scholarships you might receive. The total amount is the "net cost" of college. Experiment with different combinations of what you might pay.

Bonus Features: Bring examples of other purchases that have different sticker prices and net prices—like cars—and display them in the classroom.