Your Total Cost of College May Include More Than Just Tuition

July 07 2021

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Choosing your college is one of the most challenging parts of the life of a high school senior because various factors can impact this decision. You may explore different colleges for a well-suited program for your educational goals. Other than that, you will go to several locations and visit a few campuses to discover what is right for you. All these factors are important, but the cost of college is another essential factor you cannot ignore.

There is no doubt that tuition is a major expense you need to undertake, but it is not the only cost that needs to be considered when you pay for college. There are several other expenses like room and boarding, textbooks, miscellaneous fees, transportation, and other incidentals. If you understand this, you will know how to calculate college costs and the amount that you require each year.

How to calculate college costs

Before you sign up for your classes or accept admission, comparing college tuition costs and doing additional evaluations can benefit you regarding the correct decision for college life and the after-college expenses. Whenever you calculate the college cost, you need to make sure that all of the following expenses are included.


The majority of colleges charge per credit, and therefore, the annual tuition costs will be dependent on the number of credit hours a student takes in each semester. It is not difficult to determine the credit hours you will be taking each year, and this way, you can easily multiply out the cost of tuition for every year.

You need to check whether there is any difference between in-state or out-state tuition and whether you qualify for any discount. There are times when it can pay off for you to wait for a year and then establish a residency in a state before you enroll in a college.

Type of degree and college

A few other aspects influence tuition costs, among them the type of degree that you will earn and the kind of school you attend. For instance, the cost of attending a well-reputed college would certainly be a lot higher than attending a community college.

Other than that, if you are to earn a medical degree, you would usually spend more on your tuition than earning any other degree. When comparing college tuition costs, the cost of college is at its highest these days and has been increasing on a steady basis over the last few years. The major reason for this increase is the demand, more financial aid, expanded student services, and various other factors.

Room and boarding

A student requires a place to live, and therefore, it is important to check into the living expenses in the dormitories, fraternity houses, sororities, and off-campus in any nearby apartments. Living with a relative or a family friend can also be an option, and one needs to look at the cost of living from every aspect.

As a student, you also need to compare these expenses to living at your home and commuting. This may include the cost of driving to and from the campus, budget for gas, car maintenance and insurance, parking, and numerous other housing expenses if you are to live on your own.

Books and other supplies

As a student, you are required to take responsibility for the books and supplies, including the lab costs and any online subscriptions to the resources. Whether you are in a public, private, in-state, or out-state college, you will find the textbook and school supply costs relatively the same.

A study shows that the average cost of books and supplies for private or public colleges is estimated to be around $1,240 per year. It is also worth mentioning that every course would require at least one textbook, and the college textbooks may come with hefty price tags. Therefore, it can be a smart option to source used books online.

Traveling and other miscellaneous expenses

The transportation costs are completely dependent on your mode of transportation and where you stay. You may have to pay extra for the room if you live on campus, but you will certainly save on the transportation costs. If you live off-campus, the transportation costs will depend on whether you are cycling, driving, or using public transport.

You will also factor in long-distance transportation costs if you are to attend your college from another state. This way, you will understand how to calculate college costs, as the charge may vary tremendously depending on how far it is from your home. 

Other than that, it would help if you figured whether the college is within your driving distance or you have to take a flight, train, or bus to reach there.

In addition to tuition, boarding, room, transportation, and textbooks, there are other inevitable expenses as well. These include various non-academic expenses like basic amenities, phone bills, socializing, and purchasing tickets for any sporting or musical event.

Sticker price compared to the affordability

The cost of education is rising each year, and the families are assumed to pay more than they spent in the past years. This added expense can undoubtedly be a strain, notably for those college students who don't have scholarships. Some fresh college graduates protest that the expense of their study raised every year when they were in college.

Although one cannot be certain that spending more cash for college can be the absolute option, if one cannot receive much aid and the parents can't manage a lot of money, it is enough to stay away from the high-priced institutions. Although studying in a good college may seem like a dream come true, the student loans that need to be paid on graduation can shatter this dream.


College may cost more than you can expect. When you add things up, college costs are more than tuition and the fees you see on the college website. The sticker price of education should never be trusted, as you can expect more expenses during campus time. Housing, parking, food, and supplies can drive up the cost by thousands of dollars. When you understand it, you can have a realistic picture of how to calculate college costs, and as a result, you can smartly plan your expenses and budget. 


Is it possible to negotiate tuition with the colleges?

Although it is not widely advertised by the institutes, it is still possible to work with a college to get some better deals for fees, tuition, and any other costs.

Why are some colleges so expensive?

There are a number of causes of tuition inflation which include overbuilding of campus amenities, administrative bloat, and easy availability of student loans. But the main question still persists, why cost efficiencies have been allowed by the market.

How can one get rid of paying heavy college expenses?

Many ways can be helpful to get rid of paying heavy fees, and this includes looking for online tuition-fee degree programs, applying for scholarships and grants, working for the school, having the employer bear the costs, and going for a college that pays you.


Although unlike tuition which you can’t get around, you can choose to forego the “college experience” and commute to school if you live close enough. But at a policy-level that is also tricky. Because it’s rural areas far away from the nearest school that could probably most use help with sending their people to college. And for those people living at school is really more of a necessity than a choice.
shes-got-a-way / 2021-08-08 12:36:00

How different are room and board fees from school to school? Maybe they are more different than I realize, but to me it seems the biggest factor if you really want to save money would be to choose a school where you can live at home rather than having to dorm. If you’re set on going away to school, not sure there is typically that much difference to factor in there, other than if there are differences in how much of the room and board if any the school is going to cover as part of financial aid.
shes-got-a-way / 2021-08-19 21:36:00

Room and board can differ greatly depending on the college, even in the same state. Just like housing rates differ depending on city. Getting a room in a major city versus a smaller school not in a major city is a big difference.I haven’t closely researched on-campus dorm fees between many schools, so those may not differ as greatly (though I expect they do to an extent from supply/demand), but most schools don’t require you to live on campus at least after the first year.
stinkynate / 2021-08-28 16:12:00

Another cost that often isn’t calculated is the loss of potential wages. There are colleges that are in or near major centres that finding an ok paying job is realistic within a reasonable amount of commuting time. There are some where you would have a hard time finding something within an hour of where you are going to school
nvan98 / 2021-09-02 05:24:00