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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Covert College Costs

The tuition and room and board bill arrive on a regular time schedule, but it's easy for parents and students to overlook the less obvious financial costs of attending college. Be sure to budget for some of these "gotchas":

  • Class Fees- Many lab courses, art classes and other classes require extra supplies, which may mean additional costs to the student. Find out in advance which classes will cost more so you can plan ahead.
  • Textbooks and other media needed for class- One college textbook can cost several hundred dollars. Consider buying used books, renting textbooks or seeking out e-books as cost-cutting measures. Check out and Amazon's Prime Plan for Students for savings. Plan for other supplies such as USB flash drives and buy those online or when you find them on sale at a store.
  • Furnishings- Take advantage of January White Sales and buy sheets, blankets towels and other items when they are cheapest during the first month of the year. Keep an eye out for used or unwanted furniture if your student is planning to live in an apartment or needs dorm room furniture.
  • Parking Fees- Students can expect to pay several hundred dollars a year for a parking permit on some campuses. Colleges in large cities may not offer parking at all, requiring students to purchase city parking permits.
  • Entertainment/Food- Movies, concerts, sporting events and eating out are often a part of college life. Parents should set a budget if they're footing the bill for this category of expenses.
  • Sorority and Fraternity Costs- Going Greek isn't cheap. Members can expect to pay dues and other costs that can easily go into the thousands of dollars. Check with the college's Greek Life Office for real numbers. Other clubs and organizations often have fees associated with them as well. Advise students to check into costs when considering joining an activity.
  • Wardrobe- Trotting off to class in pajama bottoms and an old sweatshirt may not seem like a huge expense, but add in some professional clothes needed for internships, some formal or semi-formal outfits for special events and new clothing and footwear for a study abroad experience, and suddenly that wardrobe budget is inflating.
  • Travel- Whether traveling home for holidays and breaks or visiting friends or traveling abroad, these expenses can add up. Book early if flights are needed and consider an economical car for long driving trips. Buses and trains may provide more budget-friendly options. Check out Megabus and Amtrak's student discount card.
Plan to talk to your student on a regular basis about money management and how finances change over time. Financial management is a life skill and the college years provide the perfect opportunity to talk about money in a transparent way.