There is an opportunity cost for attending college. Opportunity cost is what is given up when a scarce resource is used in a certain way. Thus, by attending college, a student would be giving up the money that would be earned by working at a job full time. Generally, when a student attends college full time, the student delays entry into the workforce on a full-time basis until college is completed.
Another opportunity cost would be the inability to use the money spent on college tuition for other purposes. A person might not be able to buy a car or some other item that he or she might want to buy.
There are other opportunity costs involved. A student might be sacrificing time with family and friends. The ability to attend sporting events and cultural activities might also be limited if a person went to college full time. A person might not have much free time—to do the things he or she wanted to do—because he or she may have to study.
Finally, if a person has debt in the form of student loans, this will also add to the opportunity cost of attending college. The student will have to pay interest on the debt as well as paying off the debt. Thus, funds will be used to repay the debt that could be used for other purposes.
While there is an opportunity cost for attending college, the expectation is that a person will make up the difference in the long run with a better paying job because of the college education and degree.