For many students, the real cost of college is even higher than commonly understood. Although rising tuition costs limit college affordability, living costs—such as housing, food, and transportation—are equally essential for students striving to afford and complete college. This report examines older students’ particular challenges to college completion, describes how current measurements of costs beyond tuition do not adequately reflect older students’ experiences, and offers new estimates of older students’ spending on housing, which is typically the single greatest cost older students face.

Revised August 2020

Please note: Forthcoming are (1) a broader paper on costs beyond tuition (expected to be released in April 2021) and (2) a revised version of this report, Driving Home Costs Beyond Tuition (expected to be released in mid-2021). Each one will include estimates based on an updated methodology. Please contact us at with any questions.