Don’t be surprised by these college expenses

by Grace

Uexpected expenses can add thousands of dollars to the annual cost of college.

1. Textbooks can total $1,000 or more per semester.  Used books, rentals, and Kindle versions are some options that may cut costs.

2. Parent expenses include the cost of traveling to drop off children and to attend orientations.  Especially in some big cities, budget hotel rooms are hard to find.  These should be part of the financial considerations when making the final college selection.

3. Meal plans may waste money.  In some cases students do not eat enough meals in the dining room so “points” are left over at the end of the semester.  Or sometimes a student finds himself paying extra for meals instead of taking full advantage of the prepaid dining plan.  Picky eaters or students with food allergies may end up avoiding dorm meals.  In either case, better planning and discipline could save hundreds of dollars a year.

4. Student loan interest rates should be factored into the costs of financing.  Paying interest over ten or more years can add 50% or more to the total repayment cost, reinforcing the importance of avoiding too much student loan debt.

Read more details at US News.

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3 Comments to “Don’t be surprised by these college expenses”

  1. Students need to be strategic with their textbook choices. Kindle versions of the novels on an English lit reading list may make sense. Kindle versions of a large textbook with many small equations do not make sense. One of the saddest things I saw last semester was a student who insisted on using an online version of our text with his cellphone, since he did not own a tablet. I would see him in class, desperately scrolling through the tiny screen, looking for needed information. He flunked the class.
    I also think that renting only makes sense with textbooks that will definitely never be used again – that Intro to Psych text, for example, if you are an engineering major. But major books in your major should be purchased, especially if it is a technical major. I plead with my students to buy the Intro to Programming text that we use for three semesters of the introductory sequence, and to NOT sell it back. It is a great reference when they need to look up arcane points of Java syntax later on. But they persist in selling the book back, and then complaining in the upper level courses when they are expected to remember their introductory programming material.

    Also, I don’t get why textbooks costs are a surprise. Textbooks have been a huge expense for as long as I can remember. My parents warned me about it when I went off to college, and they had been in college in the late 50’s. I know I spent hundreds of dollars each semester on books, so it doesn’t shock me at all if students now spend around $1000.

    When I was a grad student, I thought I could save money by not going on the meal plan. I learned a)eating out is more expensive than the meal plan b)trying to live on hotplate cooking in my dorm was icky, and had the potential to attract bugs or burn the place down. Given the myriad of fancy food options available to students on typical meal plans of today, I don’t think students with allergies or religious limitations will have a problem finding choices. We even have halal choices.

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  2. Good tips on textbooks!

    Part of the reason that book prices are a surprise is that colleges typically give average costs for their Cost of Attendance (COA) numbers. But some majors simply require books that cost much higher than average. And there are so many moving parts to the college experience, many parents (certainly ones who never attended college) don’t have a good handle on details like this.

    Even though many colleges serve a greater diversity of food than in past years, I think some students still get bored with the choices. Not that I have much sympathy for that.

    Cooking your own food (in an apartment or dorm room with a kitchen) is hands down the most economical choice. I don’t know too many students who do that. My college kid started out this past year with good intentions to coordinate meal preparation with his roommates, but that fizzled out pretty quickly. I cringe when I hear what he eats sometimes.

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  3. Textbook costs do vary a lot by major. My big shock came when I started teaching healthcare informatics. In computer science, our textbooks may hit $100, and that is for the big tomes used for several semesters of programming. In upper level courses, we often can use regular (non-text) books that cost $30-$50. But in healthcare fields, textbooks routinely cost $300!!! Wowza!

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