The Real Cost of College

college student standing in hallway

College can be a great investment in your future, expanding your mind and allowing you to qualify for higher-paying, professional jobs, and careers. It’s not an inexpensive investment, however. College pamphlets may print the cost of tuition, but the real price can quickly add up due to expenses you didn’t even think of.

When budgeting for your higher education, keep in mind the real cost of college includes:

  • Tuition: Tuition is a big expense, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars per year at some institutions of higher learning.
  • Rooming: Whether you live in a dorm or off campus, the cost of renting can be high, especially in larger cities. In addition to the cost of rent, you also need to pay for the cost of utilities, Internet access, furniture and household items. Even simple things like bed linens, bath mats, dishware and other essentials can add up.
  • Computing and Technology: Most students rely heavily on technology and need a reliable computer or tablet to take class notes, complete assignments and in some cases, take tests. The hardware and software can become costly.
  • Books: The textbooks created by major publishers for college classes can easily cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year. You can save money by buying used books — but even then, each class may require multiple books, and you’ll likely have at least 5 or more classes each semester as a full-time student.
  • Quarters for Laundry: It can seem like a minor point, but you’re going to be doing laundry every week — or at least every other week, hopefully — and those quarters quickly turn into dollars.
  • Meal Plans: If you’re in a dorm, you’ll need a meal plan. If you’re living off campus, you’re still going to have to pay for groceries. There are also probably times you’ll need to grab a snack on the go or will want to go out to dinner with friends, which can be even more expensive.
  • Public Bus: If you live off campus or want to leave campus for another reason, you’ll need a bus pass. If you decide to keep your car, your expenses will be higher because you need to pay for gas and parking, which can be notoriously expensive on some campuses.
  • Money to Attend Social Events: You can’t study all the time, and you’ll want to take some time off for social events. Sporting events mean paying the cost of admission, and concert tickets aren’t cheap. While some social events are free, you’re going to need at least a small entertainment budget.
  • Medical Emergency Costs: If you’re a young, healthy college student you may not think about medical costs. However, you do need medical coverage. You may find yourself needing to pay for medicine or treatment if you get sick. You could even find yourself in an emergency medical situation.
  • Miscellaneous Costs: There lots of unexpected costs that can happen out of the blue — you need to have an emergency fund or savings to deal with these.

Whether you’re getting your funding from grants, scholarships or student loans, knowing the true cost of college lets you see how much you really need. Money Help Center has free online calculators to help you figure out how much you really need for college and calculators to help you decide whether to live on or off campus.

How do you plan on saving for college?

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