28 Nov

10 Surprising Extra College Costs

I don’t need to tell any of my blog readers that college is expensive. Tuition costs alone can be overwhelming, but what many parents don’t expect is that there are many more hidden costs and fees when it comes to paying that college bill. Smart Money recently published a wonderful article about college fees you may not have planned for. I want to share some of their top items with you, as well as a few of my own.

1. Parking ($400 to $600)

Whether your student commutes to school or just wants to have a car while he or she lives on campus, you’ll quickly discover that parking isn’t free. Most colleges charge a parking fee, require you to have proof that you’ve paid it (like a tag), and often collect again at the beginning of each quarter or semester. Skipping out on the $400+ parking permit can be costly, too–students can be fined for parking violations, and according to Smart Money, some schools will even withhold your child’s diploma until those fines are paid.

2. Health Insurance ($30 to over $2000)

Most schools automatically sign students up for their health insurance plans (you usually have to opt out to use your family insurance coverage), and annual fees can vary from nothing at all to over $2,000. The quality of the coverage also varies school to school.

Another little-known fact many parents are surprised to learn is school health insurance often covers students only during the school year, leaving them uninsured during the summer months.

3. Greek Life ($2000 or more)

Fraternity and sorority fees can really empty out your pocketbook: your student joining a Greek organization can cost close to $2000 (or more). If your student plans to live in Greek housing and use the meal plan, you could be adding another $1000 per year to that tab.

4. Student Activities ($300)

Whether or not your student participates in the myriad of events and activities on campus, he or she is probably being charged for them. Most colleges charge a “student activity” fee every quarter or semester, which helps pay for things like having a campus-run newspaper, rec centers and gyms, and other on-campus clubs, dances and social events.

5. Text Books ($800)

Long-time readers will remember my previous mention of text book costs, which are nearly $800 per year for the average student. Renting, borrowing, and buying used can mean big savings when it comes to this particular college cost.

6. Lab and Supply Fees ($30 or more per class)

Most classes with required supplies will charge students a mandatory lab/supply fee. This can be anything from a few dollars for art course supplies to upwards of $50 or $100 for science or technology courses that have more expensive equipment to maintain or require extra supplies like a lab coat and eye protection.

7. Technology ($130 to $400 or more)

According to Smart Money, even computer labs come with a fee these days. Student fees pay to maintain equipment and cover the costs of printer ink and paper. Some schools even make students fund a printing account through which they pay by the page for anything they print on campus.

8. Dorm/Apartment Supplies ($200 or more)

Dorm room “must-haves” like the coveted mini-fridge or microwave don’t come with the space–students have to either purchase or rent them. Add to that the numerous other items your child wants to add to the space–artwork, new bedding (XL Twin sized, remember), and other creature comforts–and you could easily drop hundreds of dollars to furnish the space.

Students living off-campus will need to plan for any item not included in the rent, which can be anything from furniture to monthly utility bills.

9. Study Abroad Fees ($800)

In addition to tuition and the listed transportation, room and board costs, many schools charge an additional “maintenance fee” for a student to participate in a study abroad program – a fee used to help the college maintain a strong relationship with the host school. (This is more likely to be higher if the study abroad program is not already affiliated with your child’s school.)

10. Orientation Fees ($60 to $200)

Orientation–that few days or week your student spends on campus before the semester begins to bond with fellow freshman and learn about the lay of the land–is usually mandatory, and can cost upwards of $100 to attend. (Parents may have to pay an additional fee to attend as well.) Freshmen usually pay the largest fee, but even transfer students may have to foot a $50+ bill for orientation.

With all these unforeseen costs, it is no wonder students and parents can feel a little shell-shocked by the first college bill. I recommend you plan on setting aside a minimum of 10% of the tuition cost to help cover these additional costs.  Doing this will help you feel more prepared to meet the unknown.

All the best,
Deborah Fox

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One Response to “10 Surprising Extra College Costs”

  1. 1
    Diane Rice Says:

    Your so right we are so overwhelmed by the tuitions fees we tend to forget about other unforeseen costs. We have to prepare and plan for our childrens education. This will make it a easier transition when they do attend college.

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