Many will need around $1,200 a year for

Many students think tuition is the only cost they need to worry about when calculating their college budget, but the cost of college goes beyond tuition. This lesson will help you learn to estimate your financial needs when planning your education.

How Much Does College Really Cost?

Location, size and program availability are just a few of the many criteria students use when deciding on a college.

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But one of the primary factors students must consider when deciding on a school is the cost. Tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation and travel must all be calculated into your college budget.How much you can expect to pay for school varies widely and depends on the type of school you choose. The College Board reports that the average tuition, fees, room and board for the 2013-14 school year is around $18,000 for a resident attending a public 4-year university and almost $32,000 for a non-resident attending a public 4-year university. Private schools average even more, totaling $40,917 for the 2013-14 school year.Given the wide range of prices, it’s important to do your own calculations so that you can plan your finances.

In this lesson, we are going to look at all the factors that go into the cost of a college education and ways you can reduce the amount you need to pay. Let’s begin with the first and most obvious cost – tuition and fees.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition is the money you pay for your classes. Fees are an additional cost added to tuition. Schools add on fees for just about anything, including technology, library use, I.

D. cards and parking. Many schools might have additional fees associated with certain majors. The easiest way to find the total tuition and related fees is to look on the school’s website where most schools publish their information. Once you calculate tuition and fees, you can then move on to room and board.

Room and Board

Room and board will account for a large percentage of college expenditures.

Since prices and types of on-campus housing vary widely depending on the school, you will have to research individual schools to get an idea of how much housing is going to cost. If you will live off-campus, include rent, utilities and food costs into your budget. Many universities have an off-campus housing website to help you get an estimate of how much you can expect to pay.When it comes to food, you can either shop at the grocery store and prepare your own meals or purchase a meal plan for on-campus dining. Just like housing, there are a variety of plans to choose from, so do your research. Now that you have your room and board costs accounted for, let’s take a look at another major cost in college: books and supplies.

Books and Supplies

It is common to pay $100 for one book in one class, oftentimes more. Add the price of buying a laptop along with regular school supplies, and the cost keeps increasing. The College Board reports the average student will need around $1,200 a year for books at a public 4-year university. Look online at your prospective school’s website for even more accurate numbers. After getting an estimate for books and supplies, it’s time to look at expenses for transportation and travel home.

Transportation and Travel

No matter where live, you need a way to get to and from your classes. Some schools are in small towns, and you can get by with walking or riding a bike. Other places might be spread out enough that a car is a must. For schools located in larger cities, it may be impractical to have a car, therefore, making public transportation your only option.Once you decide on your mode of transportation, you can get an idea of how much you should plan to spend. If you will have a car at school, find out local gas prices and insurance rates.

Don’t forget to budget for repairs and parking fees. If you will get around primarily by public transportation, factor in the monthly costs for fare.If you are going to live away from your family, you’ll want to decide how often you will visit before you calculate your travel costs. If you will fly home, check with the airlines to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay for plane tickets.

For driving, use fueleconomy.gov to estimate gas prices. Once you have a price in mind, you can factor a travel allowance into your overall budget.We have gone over many of the costs of a college education. It may seem overwhelming, but there is a way to reduce the amount you need to pay, and that is through financial aid.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is money for college that you receive in the form of scholarships, grants, loans and work-study. You can get financial aid from the federal government, from your home state, from the college you attend or from individuals and organizations. Financial aid can drastically reduce the costs of college, so it is worth your time to pursue all options.

One of the most common ways to get financial aid is through the federal government’s Federal Student Aid office. After you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may qualify for grants, loans or work-study. If you just want an estimate of how much you might get in federal aid but don’t want to complete the FAFSA, you can use the FAFSA4caster tool located on the Federal Student Aid website.Another way to get financial aid is through your prospective school. Many schools have scholarships or grants for students to help pay for expenses. Schools give financial aid packages based on need, merit or both. Research all of the options available at your prospective school, so you can maximize your financial aid award.

Of course, you should also apply for as many scholarships as possible to reduce costs even more. Once you determine your totals, you can deduct the financial aid amount from your estimated total costs and arrive at the amount you should budget for college.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you learned that paying for college is not just about tuition. When coming up with a budget, be sure to include tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, as well as travel expenses. You can reduce this cost by getting financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans or work-study aid.

Once you know how much you can afford, you can move forward on making your college plans.

Learning Outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • List the costs that should be included in a college budget
  • Describe some of the considerations associated with college costs
  • Recall ways to get financial aid for school
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