12 Most Overlooked Costs of College

12 Most Overlooked Costs of College

Before you start thinking about how to pay for college, make sure you don’t get ahead of yourself. Do you honestly know exactly how much attending college costs per year? How about per month? I’m not talking about just tuition, but all of college. If you don’t fully understand the costs, how will you be able to create an effective budget to pay for everything?
The most important part of paying for college is to know exactly how much everything costs. You need to do the research. Here are twelve of the most important questions you need to be asking yourself:

1. How much is tuition

A two-year college average cost for tuition and fees is $2963 for 2011-12. Public four-year colleges charge an average of $8,244 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.

2. Are there extra fees

Most schools charge fees for services such as activities or athletic facilities. Fees usually appear on the tuition bill whether you use these services or not.

3. Living on Campus

Living on-campus is usually not the cheapest option but a direct-billed cost for parents. On-campus room fees arranged through the college are usually quoted on quarter or semester basis.

4. Living off Campus

Living off-campus can be cheaper. Some financial surprises include security deposits, utilities, flaky roommates and paying rent during summer vacation.

5. Living at home

If a student lives at home, there will be expenses related to food, communications (Internet) & commuting.

6. Food costs

If a student lives on-campus, food costs (board) are usually a separate line item on the college bill. Most schools offer variety of meal plans for on-campus dining. Meal plans can range from a stated number of pre-paid meals to unlimited dining plans.

7. Transportation costs

Four-year public college students who live on campus spent an average of $1,073 on transportation in 2010-11. If a student commutes to school, budget costs for public transportation, gas, car insurance and parking fees. If school is far away, don’t forget the cost of air travel to get home on breaks and holidays.

8. Book costs

Textbook costs are similar from school to school and vary depending on courses. Students can save by buying used books, buying online, renting or sharing with classmates. Some classes require more supplies than others; others have printing, copying, or computer costs.

9. Supply costs

The Nation Retail Foundation estimates that families spend an average per semester of $96.39 on school supplies. College professors distribute a syllabus the first week of class, and that will tell the student if there are specific supplies needed.

10. Personal Expenses

These are the indirect costs that don’t show up on the college bill. Students have lots of small personal expenses that add up. Consider clothing, laundry, haircuts, cell phone charges, and entertainment.

11. Health Insurance costs

This actually varies from college to college. At many small private colleges anyone without health insurance needs to subscribe to the school’s plan. Small private college medical plans cost about $900-$1,000 per year. Large, private university costs are around $2,000 per year. You can usually waive health insurance when you get the bill if the student is on his/her parents plan.

12. What does the Net Price Calculator say

Last month colleges were required to provide “Net Price Calculators” on their websites. Check out the cost of attendance using NPC but remember they only give estimates. Use net price calculators as a “ballpark” to find the true cost of college.

Jodi Okun


I LOVE helping parents find the financial resources to cover the cost of College! I take the stress out of the process and empower you with info and support! I examine how you can use college financial aid -- from scholarships to work/study jobs to student loans -- to help pay for that all-important education.

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