The cost of a college education is rising, which can be concerning for students and their families.
When applying for schools, you must consider that there will be more costs and fees than expected.
When you take the time to speak with college planning specialists, you’ll learn which hidden costs to look out for and how to overcome some of your money challenges.
Going to college is a great experience for many students; this is when they learn a lot about themselves and their lives.
Rather than getting discouraged and assuming you won’t be able to fit a college education into your budget, consider creating a budget and funding plan ahead of time.
Let’s look at average college tuition, the hidden costs of college, how to create a budget and funding plan, and who to reach out to for help with your college planning needs.
What is the average college tuition?
The cost of tuition has increased over the past year for both public and private schools.
Still, there is no standard tuition rate for colleges.
The cost of tuition will depend on whether you choose a public or private school, how prestigious the school is, and where the school is located.
To gain a better idea of what your college tuition may be per year, consider the following averages:
- Community college (in-state)- $4,864
- Community college (out-of-state)- $8,622
- Public two-year (in-district)- $17,580
- Public four-year (in-state)- $25,290
- Public four-year (out-of-state)- $40,940
- Private four-year- $50,900
11 hidden college costs to add to your budget
While tuition will be the most expensive part of your college education, there are many other hidden costs to factor into your budget.
1. Textbooks and class materials
Textbooks are required for most classes and are notoriously expensive. While there are many websites nowadays that offer textbooks for rent or at a discounted rate, they’re still going to be a big portion of your costs.
Other supplies you may need include reference books, notebooks, folders, pens, highlighters, tape, staplers, calculators, and paperclips, among others. Campuses typically have their own stores for that kind of stuff but you may be better off looking to Amazon or big box stores.
2. Technology and electronics
Most college students at least need a laptop and it’s even sometimes required for classes. Many campuses offer computer labs and libraries but to get work done in your home or dorm, you’ll want your own device—and they’re not cheap.
Then consider accessories such as headphones, microphones, printers, and even your cell phone, which are all costly gadgets.
Other costs may include software and technology fees for smart classrooms.
3. Printing fees
If you don’t have your own printer, you may have to pay the school to use theirs. Some schools charge up to $1 per page, which can be pretty pricey when printing out presentations and research papers. Others may offer a generous number of prints for free per semester. Either way, this is something you should be sure to find out and plan for ahead of time.
4. Transportation and parking fees
If you live on campus, you’ll likely need to pay for a parking pass. If your college has its own bus system, you may need to pay an annual fee for that as well.
For students living off-campus, you will spend more on gas and may even need to pay for a meter or parking garage.
5. Furnishing your space
Whether you live on or off campus, you will likely want to spruce the place up and make it your own. Not to mention essentials such as groceries, basic cooking supplies, toiletries, and other necessities that students may be purchasing on their own for the first time.
6. Utilities and internet
Living on your own means utility bills. If you’re off campus, this will mean electricity, internet, water, and other utilities. If you choose an on-campus dorm, these costs will likely be included in your upfront costs for room and board. Since these are necessities, costs will add up quickly.
Most students will have at least one monthly subscription. These could be entertainment services such as Netflix, ESPN+, or Disney, or subscriptions to help them with their college courses, like Microsoft Suite or Grammarly.
8. Greek life
Though not required, many students want to participate in on-campus Greek life for socialization. If you decide to pledge to a fraternity or sorority, an annual membership could cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.
On top of your membership fee, you may be required to attend special events, formals, and trips and contribute to charities. This is another cost to make sure you’re aware of before committing to anything and as you create your budget.
9. Joining clubs
Schools and organizations usually require students to pay dues, as it helps them cover the cost of running the club and helps with upkeep.
Depending on the club, sport, or organization, you may also need to pay for equipment and travel.
10. Lifestyle costs
Often, students forget to consider the cost of eating out, attending social events, purchasing clothing for formal events, and other lifestyle costs while attending school. This is where your budget becomes especially important as it’s easy to go overboard with on and off-campus activities.
11. Graduation fees
Before you can receive your diploma, you’ll typically be charged an exit fee, and need to pay for your cap, gown, and tassel if you’re walking in a ceremony. You may or may not want to think about graduation before you even begin your first year, but it’s better to have an overall education funding plan so you can be prepared and make the most of your college experience.
Creating a budget & funding plan for college
Before you go to college, have a plan for how you’ll fund and pay for tuition.
Did you get a scholarship? Are you going to take out student loans? Do you have family offering to assist you? You don’t want to be caught off guard when tuition is due so it’s best to figure this all out as soon as you can.
Once you know how the education will be funded, spend a few months tracking what you spend each month. This will help you to create a budget for spending while you’re actually attending school.
Once you realize what you spend the most money on you can begin looking for ways to cut back.
Do you go out to eat often or buy a morning coffee daily? If so, try eating at home more and making your own coffee. You may be surprised by how much money you can save by making little changes. Getting in the habit of being frugal will help you transition to living on your own and staying within budget.
You can also save money while you’re at school by using free forms of transit and purchasing used textbooks.
To create a budget, you must determine your income and look over your expenses.
Add up all of your expenses to see what you have left over each month. If you don’t have anything left over, you will want to find more ways to cut your spending or increase your income.
If cutting back isn’t enough, you could try finding an on-campus job to offset expenses. Are there on-campus tutoring jobs? Can you be a teacher’s assistant? Big campuses usually have many employment opportunities.
You’ll want to have some money left over each month to put into an emergency fund. Unexpected expenses can come up at any time, whether it be car repairs, medical expenses, or other scenarios.
Reach out to college planning specialists
Doing your homework about paying for school can be exhausting, especially if you’re the first in your family to attend college.
If you need help with creating a budget, funding plan, or finding ways to afford college, a college planning specialist can help.
Rather than doing the work alone, let professionals help you find the answers and help you are looking for.
With proper consideration and planning, your college goals and dreams can become a reality.