College Expenses

Graduation MoneyMoney-one of the main considerations when choosing a college. Money, along with your grade point average and test scores, is one of the three big determining factors on if and/or where you go to college. There's no denying the facts-colleges and universities get more expensive every year. According to the College Board, tuition costs alone now average almost six thousand dollars a year at public colleges and universities. That's forty percent higher than it was just five years ago. You can check on any individual school with a good college directory.

At private schools, the average tuition is approaching twenty two thousand dollars a year. So the choice of a college depends not only on which colleges you can get accepted at, but of those, which ones you can afford to attend. Of course, tuition is only one part of the cost of attending college. Unless you're going to be a commuter student who lives with your parents, you'll also need to pay for room and board, either on your own, or in a dorm. This will run into the thousands of dollars. And if you've never bought a college textbook before, boy, are you in for a shock. Textbooks are extremely expensive, and you'll spend hundreds of dollars a year on books alone. (One small relief-at the end of the school year you can usually sell your books back to the bookstore for a fraction of what you paid.) Add on lab fees, parking fees, living expenses, walking around money, etc., and pretty soon we're talking about a nice chunk of change. For many students, this will be their first real shot at living on their own, and handling money, budgeting, making payments on time, etc. It can be a real shock to the system if you're not prepared, and many students aren't. So the first thing to do when preparing for college is to get used to the fact that you'll be handling your own financial affairs, that you'll be on a limited income, and that you'll have to adhere to a strict budget. Which is not to say that you won't be able to go out for a pizza or a movie with your friends every now and then. You should, and will, be able to. That sort of thing is a big part of the college experience. But you have to plan for it, and make it an occasional thing, instead of a several times a week thing.

If you've never set up a budget before, talk to your parents about what's involved. Sit down with them, look at the money you'll have to spend, and where it should be spent and when, and set up a plan. That's all budgeting is. But you have to stick to it. Especially in the early days of a semester, it can be very tempting to break your budget for various reasons. But don't do it. You'll save yourself a lot of heartache, and start building a valuable lifetime habit. College expenses are huge, and must be handled carefully. Costs and expenses should always be a major deciding factor when choosing a college.

Last Updated: 07/11/2014