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College expenses: What besides tuition costs $$?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Not that we are anywhere near but I am trying to guesstimate college expenses besides tuition.  I realize books, housing, food, spending $$...what are the other expenses?  Using current prices can anyone give me a guesstimate amount on expenses other than tuition and housing (I think these are usually combined if you are living on campus?)


I realize that these can vary quite a bit, I'm just looking for an average here.  $10K?  $20K?  Less or more?


Also is it usually mandatory for a student to live on campus?  Would you recommend this for the first few years for the 'experience'?  (I'm not talking about living @ home as an alternative unless ds wants to.  If he wants to I'd love to have him.  But if he prefers an apartment/roomate or not, I'm wondering if this is even an option for the first two years or so?)


Thank you!

post #2 of 13

I can't give you cost estimates (we aren't at that stage yet either) but I'm just thinking of the fees I didn't think of when I was in college.


  • Gas, parking permits, etc.
  • Fees for special study programs (studying abroad, J-term, etc.)


I think whether or not you live on campus depends on the University.  Where I went (MN State) it was typical to live on campus the first year only.  After that, most people found a roommate or two and lived in an apartment off-campus.

post #3 of 13

I only paid for tuition, room and board and books (ONLY!).  DDs have to pay for socializing, sorority fees and expenses if they joined (they haven't), etc.  My girls are on quarters (three a year) and I have spent anywhere from $150 to $600 for one DD for just one quarter of books.  It just all depends on what classes they are taking. Granted, the $600 was the largest and very rare.  I would say it averages about $250 to $300.


Usually colleges insist that Freshman live on campus at least the first year.  However, I do believe they can register as a commuter and live off campus.  It is usually MUCH cheaper for them to rent an apartment (even for 12 months) then to live on campus.  The food plans are just outrageous and my girls can usually get by on less than $100 a month in groceries.

post #4 of 13

We're not at that stage yet either, but one thing I'm hearing about (which I think is silly) are some colleges forcing students to purchase meal plans.  I'm not sure if this is per semester or per year, but a parent I know is having to periodically cough up $2,000 for this.  That's insane!  Students should be able to decide where and what they want to eat.  There are cheaper options for students than eating at the school.

post #5 of 13

Plan on travel expenses or wear and tear on a vehicle.  If they drive back and forth or travel back and forth on the holidays that can get expensive. Also, put aside a small budge for misc school supplies. I have purchased a couple of things from the book store to help me; a stapler, a zip drive, a dictionary, graph paper, a Chinese English dictionary, and scantron sheets. Just some of the unexpected items that are not listed with the regular stuff.

post #6 of 13
Much of what the others have said is true. Starlite is right that if you live in a dorm you HAVE to purchase an overpriced meal plan. I have ALWAYS bought the least expensive one and both of my kids have had money left over at the end of the year that they frantically spend to buy non-perishables they can bring home. So don't be tempted to think you need the big plans. I disagree with Diane that it's always less expensive to get an apt. My DD is living in one this year and it's costing more, especially when you add in food costs and things for the apt. It's a REALLY nice apt (nicer than the first two I lived in out of college) and is expensive I think. For another thing, most times you have a 12 month lease (she does) so you pay even if you're not there in the summer unless you can sublet it. So they can be less expensive but I'd do price comparison.

Both of my kids attend a large public university and they DO require living on campus the first year. To be honest I prefer my kids living on campus but DD got an apt for her senior year and my DS wants to either pledge a fraternity or get an apt later. I know my DD has eaten MUCH less healthy the last two years (last year she lived in a dorm without cafeteria service) because she doesn't have the campus meal plan where she can easily get salads, fresh fruit, protein etc. Left on her own to cook she lives almost entirely off of pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Not the healthiest. So I personally would rather pay for the meal plan and know they're getting good meals even though it is much more expensive.

So you know about tuition, boarding and books (which can be expensive). There are lots of other FEES, but at least for us those are included in the semester payment with tuition, so they're not popping up all the time. We just pay a big lump sum at the beginning of each semester. DH & I laughed to ourselves when we went to DS's college orientation because they'd talk about something then say "Oh but don't worry......that will just be added to your bursar bill". Like that made it free or something! You still had to pay it, it just meant later.

The only other large expense we had was season tickets to my DS's football and basketball games. I would have NEVER paid for those, but he asked my DH and he said yes (like always) without even batting an eye. I knew from experience (I went to Indiana University like my DS) that there are a million basketball games and often late in the evening and during the week and it's really impossible to go to them all. My DS thinks they were worth it because he was at the IU/Kentucky game that IU won (the only regular season game that Kentucky ranked #1 lost). Easy for him to say since he didn't pay for them.

Otherwise, except for tuition, the fees included with tuition, room and board and books, it's mostly just piddly spending money. I know I've talked many times about how I didn't want my kids to work during the school year, but they had summer jobs starting when they were 16. I expected them to save the majority (which they each willingly did) and then put some in their debit acct for their spending money during the year. Now that they're in college I expect them to pay for their own books with that money and still pay for their spending money out of their summer pay.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone!!  I so appreciate your input, insight!

post #8 of 13

Everyone already said it, but I was going to mention all the extra fees on top of tuition, room, food, and books. There are fees for every little thing it seems. (getting a required campus id card, $10, library fee $60 (I don't even use the library and I have to pay it), etc) 


I spend apx $300 a semester on books. Some will be more, some will be less. This semester most are online only, so I only spent $100 total, which was awesome, I used swagbucks and amazon credits. But lab classes can be more expensive. 


I will require my kids to live on campus the first two years. I think they get more involved and get the experience. I also think the meal plan is worth it.  

post #9 of 13

lab fees for science classes. You're lucky if your kid doesn't take art - art supplies are extremely expensive. I went to a commuter school, so I had to pay to park every day, plus gas. Some courses require you to get copies of things, so you pay for copier services.

post #10 of 13

A new computer. Expect that he will need more than one during his college years.


You know you have to pay an extra "diploma fee", too - right? Yes, if you want him to graduate, there is an extra fee.


We can only guess what books will cost when our kids get to that age. I'm hoping all the text books will be digital by then.


So count the costs that, by then, you'll consider his regular expenses - cellphone, insurance, auto maintenance, etc. You'll be used to paying those things when he is still in high school. In senior year of HS you'll have to pay all his graduation expenses from HS plus all his application fees.Junior year of high school will be his ring and SAT/ACT tests. One of those years you also might want to do some traveling for 'campus visits'.


Do keep in mind that there is tuition and you have to pay for each unit (credits). Many classes are three units and each unit can be a couple of hundred dollars (at least now) so one class is $750. Many students now accelerate their schooling to save on tuition. That means taking more classes / more units per semester. If you have a university in your area (I know you have at least two) run by the campus one day and pick up a student handbook and application. Some universities also have this information on-line. You can check out the current prices.


Like many people said, some schools require freshmen to live on campus - even if their parents live two blocks away. However, you can also consider having him attend a community college for the first two year (make sure he gets his associates degree there) then he can transfer to a 4-yr university for the rest of his education. It is a little more work to do it this way since you have to make sure he covers all his prerequisites, however, it is much cheaper in the long run.


Edited by Cookie2 - 3/20/12 at 5:41pm
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