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By Alissa Green
When considering the true cost of a college education, you may be tempted to look at the annual tuition of your chosen school and think that’s all the money you need, less the student aid and scholarships you’ve been awarded.
Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
The typical college list price doesn’t include room and board, books, ‘fun’ expenses, traveling home for the holidays, on-campus transportation, along with a host of other variables including differing fees by major. For example, engineering and fine arts majors tend to pay more; at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign last year, students majoring in engineering and science paid $5,004 more in tuition last year than students in the humanities, likely due to lab equipment and special software.
According to the College Board, the average combined tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year after scholarships and student aid were:
And don’t forget that the tuition you pay tomorrow is likely going to be higher than what you pay today –the average tuition increase was 3.7% for this year.
Plus, those numbers don’t include a roof over your head or food in your belly. The fees for "room and board" vary based on the cost-of-living of your school’s location. Fees in New York City are going to be much higher than in Ann Arbor.
According to the College Board, the typical cost of “room and board” last year ranged from $9,804 at four-year public universities to $11,188 at private universities. To see how your school’s location ranks in terms of the cost of consumer goods, check out this handy calculator from the Economic Research Institute.
Books and supplies (don’t forget about software/technology!) can also be pricey. Both public and private college students tend to spend around $1,200 yearly on them. Meanwhile, extraneous fees for transportation, entertainment and clothing cost students $2,600 - $3,200 last year.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while nine out of 10 freshman think they’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, according to a national study by UCLA...the truth is less optimistic. A U.S. Department of Education report shows that fewer than half of students will actually graduate in four years. In fact, only 55 percent of students will have graduated in six years. That’s a lot of extra money not accounted for – approximately $64,000 at a public university once you consider education costs, cost of living expenses and, especially, lost wages.
Extra years typically accrue when students change majors or realize they need extra credits they weren’t planning on. Ironically, extra years of school are much more common at public schools than private schools, which can seem like a comparative bargain when looking at four years of school vs. five or six.
So, what can you do? Take the time to budget carefully and follow our expert financial tips: