Many families put a lot of effort in comparing the bottom line costs associated with their son or daughter attending the college of their choice. If finances were not a driving force in the college selection, students would probably attend the college they feel most connected to without regard to price. However, since college expense does play a role in the college search process, it is important that students be aware of ALL the fees and policies that could impact the amount they spend on their education at a particular institution.
The Most Basic Expenses
Tuition: This fee is pretty straight forward but there are probably some caveats that you need to inquire about. The first thing I would want to know is whether your college of choice charges per credit hour or if they have a flat rate for each semester that you attend. In addition, do they charge you additional fees if you take a certain amount of credit hours? This is commonly referred to as an overload fee.
Room: Everyone has to sleep somewhere right? You will want to see if you are required to be in university housing (residence halls) all four year or if you have the option of living in off-campus housing (rentals) at some point. Most colleges seem to provide this choice for students with a junior/senior status. Also, if they let you live off-campus, are you permitted to sign a lease with a private landlord or do you have to stay in a university owned rental? Lastly, something you need to check out is the commuter status policy at your school. If you live close enough to campus are you allowed to live at home and drive to school each day?
Board: Eating on campus has it’s privileges (not having to cook for yourself and no dishes) but it does usually come at a premium price. So you need to find out if you are required to have a meal plan all four years. In addition, you need to know if you have the option of choosing a meal plan that appropriately fits your eating habits and lifestyle. You certainly don’t want to be paying for more than you will be consuming and flexibility of meal plans (pricing and size) can have a considerable impact on your budget over the span of four years.
The Not So Basic Expenses
Technology Fees: In the old days, students used to come to campus and the only thing they needed to plug into an electrical outlet was an alarm clock. Today they bring dozen of devices with them ranging from cell phone chargers, ipads, laptops, refrigerators, and flat screen t.v.’s. Not only do they expect to have the availability of electricity to properly run these items but they also anticipate having internet access just about anywhere on campus (wired and wireless). In order to keep up with demand, colleges and universities have been implementing technology fees of varying amounts.
Facility Fees: You didn’t think those buildings on campus take care of their deferred maintenance all by themselves did you? In order to provide structural updates and improvements to the most frequented campus facilities, it is not uncommon for a college to implement this fee to fund the associated costs. The most common buildings I have seen falling under this category are the Student Center and the Health and Fitness Center.
Student Health Insurance: Just about every student attending a campus based university or college must have some sort of medical insurance coverage. The good news is that if you don’t have the coverage, the school has more than likely brokered a discounted rate and insurance plan on your behalf. They will pass the cost of this program onto you in the form of a fee BUT if you able to show proof of alternate medical insurance coverage you can usually opt out or waive the university provided student insurance (and the fee associated).
The Rarely Seen But “You Never Know” Expenses
Printing Fees: Have you ever seen a student print a 300 page research journal just so that they could obtain the quote found on page 93? I have. The student pulled out the page they needed and discarded the remainder of the stack. Fortunately, they were eco-friendly and took the time to place the 299 pages of unneeded paper in the recycle bin. 😉 As you can imagine, this doesn’t seem like a lot of expense but if you have this type of paper abuse happening campus-wide, it does equate to quite an expense for the college that provides free paper in their computer labs. I know one campus that is implementing this fee for the coming academic year and they are providing students with a “normal” allotment of free printing but will be charging per sheet there after.
Toilet Paper: I never thought it would get to this point but obviously our economy is struggling a little more than I knew. So much that Texas A&M is contemplating the removal of toilet paper from their residence halls. They estimate that this move will save the University $82,000. (WOW!) I can personally vouch for the misuse of toilet paper in my college days as I witnessed my friends looting the residence halls to “decorate” some of the trees throughout campus. So I can see how passively passing this cost onto students may be a benefit to some colleges and universities.
The important thing to take away from this article is that college expenses are not just about what you are billed, how much financial aid you receive, and what the difference is between. College costs can vary greatly depending on the different policies and fees that each school may have in place and before you make that final commitment, do your homework and double check some of the variables mentioned above.
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