At first glance, tuition seems like it should be the biggest and most important college expense. Nowadays, however, other fees and cost of living can add up to many times the simple cost of tuition, and parents need to be aware of what it will really take to put a kid through college.
Raising base tuition has become so unpopular for schools that many are turning to fees to raise revenues that once would have been covered by tuition. At Florida’s flagship school, the University of Florida, such as, students pay a $101 capital improvement trust fund fee, a $126 transportation fee and a $29 athletic fee, even if they aren’t athletes.
Other schools have it even worse. At the University of California Santa Cruz, more than 30 fees hike tuition from its base price of $11,220 to almost $15,000 — that’s a 34 percent increase.
Room and Board
Room and board is often the biggest college expense, especially for students who are attending public universities that don’t have a tuition price in the tens-of-thousands of dollars like private schools. The average room and board allowance is $9,205 – well in excess of the price of tuition at most public universities.
Cost of living also increases like clockwork every year, a fact to keep in mind if you’re saving up money well in advance.
If you don’t live within a couple hours of your kid’s school, then costs for moving and visiting can add up quickly. Purchasing a round-trip plane ticket for your son or daughter to come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer vacations can add up quite quickly.
Joining clubs and organizations is a vital part of the college experience. If your child is particularly active in campus life, then dues of $50 and $75 every semester can start to add up fast. Other expenses, like T-shirts or convention travel, often come as a surprise to parents’ wallets.
The ultimate club expense, however, is Greek life. Sorority membership costs an average of $2,000 a year, according to the National Panhellenic Conference. That doesn’t include costs for activities, such as pledging, initiation, formals and travel.
The popularity of study-abroad programs has exploded in recent years, and many students now feel like an undergraduate experience isn’t complete without some time in another country. However, with costs averaging around $3,400 according to a 2012 survey, that decision doesn’t come cheap.
Random fees and charges are sometimes hard to plan for. Getting socked with an overdue library fine or parking ticket can be a very unpleasant surprise. Other fees may not be random, but still might have been overlooked in your planning. Most schools will require health insurance or a health fee (average: $2,200), a parking fee ($20 to $175), and books (average: $450).
Once all the mandatory fees and costs of college are met, there’s still the need to have a college experience. If your child isn’t working on his or her own, then “beer and pizza money” has to flow through you or a student loan, and this can sometimes be the hardest expense to control.
Consider encouraging your kid to work during school holidays or take an on-campus work-study job for a few hours a week.
This article was provided by Debt.org. We can help inform students on financial planning when heading into college. Whether it is help with the financial aid process or consolidate their student loans or how to budget, our site has access to free information that can guide them through the process.