Yo, in regards to studio rates it does indeed vary, however you can usually find a good studio for about $40/50 an hour, but check for ones that offer cuts in price in booking day times. The studio I interned at this summer's rates were $60 / hour, but they made bigger cuts in rates with larger amounts of time booked. If your just starting up I see people posting things up about the Mbox.
I am currently loaning an Mbox for my Tech. Of Audio V course, the things are cool and everything... However for the price, your better off buying a Presonus Firepod, I love Pro Tools and all BUT running programs like Cubase or Steinberg Nuendo it frees up way more processing power on a pc. I do use both PCs and Macs regularly; but undoubtedly its much more cost efficient to start out with a pc for recording for novice and intermediate users. If you want to go ProTools, also check out M-Audio's website, they have some pretty good stuff on they're and if your going legit, there is however a $300 fee for the M-Audio version of ProTools, yet another good program is Ableton Live, which Beck uses in the studio quite often.
Live long and prosper.