Steadfast FinancesHow Much Does College Really Cost?

How Much Does College Really Cost?

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It has been eighteen years since your child was born. A few days ago he has just received an acceptance letter to his top college choice in the mail. This is the moment you have been waiting for and working toward for almost two decades. While you feel that parental pride that your child will be working towards a higher education degree for the next four years, you also feel apprehension. You worry if you have saved enough to fund four years of college education. It’s natural. Unless you’re a millionaire, you’re going to feel some pressure when you stop to think about how much these four years are going to cost you.

The True Cost of College

Many of you end up shocked at the total cost of college. You think that once you have saved enough for tuition, you’re done, but that’s not the complete picture. Aside from the fact that tuition has been rising at an accelerated pace in recent years and that seems to be no end to the hikes, there are a myriad of other expenses to consider. These additional expenses can just cost as much, or even more than the tuition itself, so families have to be prepared.

There are numerous ways to fund your child’s education. Some feel that you parents have the obligation to send your kid to school. Other parents do “halfsies” with their kids on the expenses. Others feel that it’s up to the child to fund his education since that’s his decision anyway. Whatever path you end up taking, it is important to sit down as a family and calculate how much the next four years are going to cost and properly prepare for it. Everybody should be made aware because it will affect the lives of all members of the family.

Do research on the schools that your son and daughter are considering. School websites are now required to have a net price calculator to compute how much will the entire thing cost. Compare the costs based on the different factors listed here to help calculate how much you will be spending yearly.

1        Tuition

The sticker price of tuition has been increasing exponentially as much as 50% more over the last decade. The average sticker price of yearly tuition at a private college is close to $30,000. Consider state schools which offer lower tuition.

2        Fees

Schools are tacking on more and more fees to your bill, a clever disguise to keep tuition down. They can make up a third of your payment. Normally, science and technology courses have bigger fees because of the different laboratories they use. Some of these have obscure names like cultural development fees and student chests. And there’s that ubiquitous miscellaneous fee. You don’t even know where most of these go, but you can and should ask for a breakdown of these fees.

3        Transportation Costs

How will your child get to school and all the places he needs to be? If he needs a car, a pre-owned car in good running condition could be a great choice. Factor in the cost of gas and maintenance costs. If your child will be relying on public transportation, look at monthly unlimited cards. In the event that your child studies in a different state, you have to determine how many times a year will he need to fly home. Plane tickets can be expensive during the holidays.

4        Books and Supplies

Depending on the course, books can be really expensive. In the beginning, factor in the costs of buying brand new books, just to have a good estimation. That cost can be brought down with renting or borrowing books or buying used ones. Photocopying materials, printing homework and thesis costs should be factored in as well. Other supplies might include a calculator, notebooks, pens, printer toner, etc.

5        Room and Board

Usually it’s a choice between staying in the dorm and looking for off campus housing. Determine if the price is just the rent or does it already include the utilities like electricity, internet, and water that would fluctuate during the different seasons. College kids are growing kids, and they will eat a lot. Inquire whether the dorm has a dining plan. In some cities, students can rent a house, especially when sharing, for less than what the dorm costs. Most times, however, the dorms are the cheapest option.

6        Computer and Cellphone

No college kid can be without a computer. Desktops are often cheaper, but laptops are more portable. If you buy new at the beginning of freshman year, chances are it will make it until your kid graduates, but if he will be bringing the one he’s been using, chances are, it will need replacing while he’s still in college. Everyone has a cellphone nowadays, so factor in the cost of the monthly plan even if you are already paying for it.

7        Miscellaneous

Yes, there are so many little things a college student has to pay for. He’ll need clothes throughout the four years, laundry tokens, money for dining out, and other things. You do want your child to enjoy these four years. However, many parents sit down with their children and inform them that they will be getting a job if they want any “fun” money.

Now that you’ve run through the list and computed everything, you are probably in shock. College is expensive, and if you don’t plan early, you’ll end up in the poorhouse.

Do you have a child who is about to enter college? What are your financial plans? Who will be paying for what?

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Posted by CJ   @   3 December 2012 0 comments
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