Financial Aid, Tuition

College: Considering the Cost Beyond Tuition

When you’re planning for the cost of attending college, the expenses don’t stop at tuition. There is rent to pay, books to buy, the price tag of any athletics or activities you choose to pursue and more. Some fees depend on the university you attend, while others might be impacted by the courses you sign up for or by your major.

Tax Credits/Flickr

While some schools may include an estimate of the total cost of attending the university, including room and board, housing, books and fees on their websites, it is important to take into account each student’s lifestyle. This would not include the cost of participating in activities and having a social life — a very important part of the college experience.

For those students who will be living away from home for the first time, the price of a degree may seem to end at tuition. The following are some of the hidden costs of higher education that should be considered.

What is the cost beyond tuition?

Beyond the academic costs for books, labs, a personal computer and university or activity fees, the cost of living is one we don’t often think to factor in.

If a student plans to live on campus or in student housing, the cost of room and board, as well as food, in many cases, will be packaged into a single bill. Most universities allow students to pay this in installments throughout the term or in one lump sum at the beginning, much like tuition.

However, for students living off campus, there are several things that need to be taken into account when renting a house or apartment:

  • Some landlords ask for first and last month’s rent
  • A security deposit, usually equal to one month’s rent
  • Depending on the location, a fee for the broker or real estate agent who found your new home
  • Utilities, which can include gas, electric, water, trash pickup. Be sure to ask which utilities are included in your rent and read your lease over carefully.
  • Cable or internet
  • Furniture
  • The cost of moving
  • Cell phone expenses
  • Food — both groceries and eating out
  • Health insurance — either the cost of remaining on your parent’s plan, school insurance or an individual plan
  • Laundry – either in the living quarters or at a Laundromat
  • If your school is in a new climate, the cost of a new wardrobe
  • Travel to and from home
  • Personal care items, medicine, and any other items you typically use

Additionally, it is wise to keep an emergency fund on hand, just in case something unexpected happens.

Students who live on campus won’t need to worry as much about transportation, but it’s important to factor in the cost of traveling within the city, as well:

  • Car insurance
  • Gas
  • Repair and maintenance fund, in case of emergencies
  • Parking permit
  • A bus pass or metro card for public transit

How to pay?

The cost of attending college is not as simple as it may seem and may seem overwhelming. For many students, this will be a crash course in budgeting and money management. Small scholarships exist to help families deal with these additional expenses. This can be an excellent opportunity for a student to get a part-time job to help decrease the leftover cost, after scholarships and loans have been doled out. Students are also eligible for a number of summer work opportunities that can help pay for living expenses.

Photo: College Fund. Credit: Tax Credit / Flickr

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.