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College Costs

When you’re conducting your college search, you will notice the outrageous numbers associated with higher education. The cost of attending college is huge, and goes beyond tuition. With the average cost of public colleges at $20,000 a year and the average cost of private colleges at $50,000 a year, families are left wondering what they’re paying for, and how to pay for it.

We’ve broken down what to expect when it comes to college costs. Use our college calculators to help plan for these expenses.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition will be the largest college expense, and it will increase each year. Student fees, such as technology fees, athletic fees, and student services fees are included in your tuition statement. These fees are mandatory, even if a student does not use these services. Tuition and fees have been rising at an average of 6% per year. While private colleges have higher tuition rates, their rates increase less quickly than state colleges, which are at the mercy of state budgets.

Room and Board

The cost of room and board varies based on the school you attend, and housing options. Single rooms and on-campus apartmentsare more expensive than triple rooms in older dorms. Colleges often place restrictions on where freshmen students live. However, if you lobby for health reasons such as allergies, there is often flexibility in campus housing.

Books and Supplies

With individual book prices well over $100, textbook costs add up quickly. Depending on your major you could be paying upwards of $500 per book. It’s important then to know there are other options available, such as buying used books or renting books. Also check if the textbook is available in your school library. Explore all alternatives before paying full price for any book.

College Living Expenses

A teenager living at home and using an after-school job for fun money does not realize how much it costs to maintain the standard of living they are accustomed to. Even parents footing the bills can be surprised at how quickly college costs add up. Many of these miscellaneous expenses can be covered with a campus job, but 10-12 hours a week will not be enough to cover surprise situations. Therefore, establish an emergency fund for extra security.

Last Reviewed: March 2017

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