The Truth About College Costs
College is expensive, but it may not be as expensive as you think.
If you look on a college’s financial aid or tuition web page, you’ll see the school’s “sticker price” listed for tuition. But like buying a car, almost no one pays that full amount. Colleges offer academic or merit scholarships and institutional aid, as well as other discounts to recruit students and help make college affordable. When that’s combined with federal financial aid, you could be paying a lot less than the sticker price.
In addition to tuition, here are a few other expenses you can expect to pay for your education.
COSTS TO APPLY
Application fee: Most colleges have an application fee. Fees range from $50 to over $100 per school. Some colleges may waive the application fee for students who apply online or as an incentive for students to apply by a certain deadline. Ask the college admission counselor for details on the application fee for the school you’re considering.
Transcript or exam fees: It may cost a fee to send your high school transcripts, community college transcripts or college entrance exam test scores to colleges. The fee typically covers the work to process your request. For both the ACT and SAT, a student can send his test score to up to four colleges for free. Sending a test score to additional colleges starts at $12 each for the ACT and $11.25 each for the SAT.
COSTS TO ENROLL
Deposit/Enrollment Fee: This is a fee you pay after you are accepted to a college. Also called a “New Student Fee,” paying this fee holds your spot and confirms your intent to enroll. At some schools, this fee may be refundable until a certain date, while other schools may consider this a nonrefundable fee. If you do actually enroll and start classes at the school, the fee is usually put toward your tuition bill. Deposit fees vary greatly—from around $100 to over $300, depending on the school.
New Student Orientation Fee: If your college requires you to attend a mandatory orientation for news students, be prepared to pay a fee for it. College orientation helps you get acquainted with the college campus, faculty and other students, as well as learn about important policies and procedures and online tools you’ll be expected to know and use. Orientation fees vary from about $40 to more than $300, depending on the length of orientation and activities involved.
COSTS WHEN YOU BEGIN YOUR DEGREE PROGRAM
Course fees: After you enroll at college, if a certain college course you’re taking requires lab experiments, the use of a computer lab or other special technology, you may be charged a course fee, in addition to tuition. Course fees vary.
Room and board: If you intend to live on campus, you’ll be charged room and board. Financial aid can be used to help offset these costs. According to the College Board, average room and board expenses for 2015-16 were between $10,000 and $12,000 per year, depending on the type of school attending (public four-year vs. private four-year college). Also, when you first decide to live on campus, you’ll usually need to submit a housing application and a housing deposit fee to hold your place. Fees vary greatly, from about $100 to over $250, depending on the college.
Books and school supplies: According to the College Board, undergraduate students spend an estimated $1,300 per year on textbook and school supplies. You may be able to reduce this amount by using a used book or renting a textbook.
To learn the full story on how much your college education will cost, ask your admission counselor or a financial aid officer for an up-to-date list of the costs students at that specific school can expect. Be sure to ask about the extra fees that may not be included with tuition so you can understand the whole cost of your education.
In addition, you can check out colleges’ net price calculator tools to see an estimate of what you’ll pay once financial aid and scholarships are taken into account.