College Tuition Costs

So, you’ve been accepted into the college of your dreams.  Great!  Now how much are college tuition costs?  The bottom line is that you can’t go to college until you figure out approximately how much the total college tuition costs will be each year.

In the college world, this is know as the Cost of Attendance (COA).  Unfortunately, college tuition costs are just one of the many costs that colleges factor into their overall COA.  In fact, tuition itself can be as little as 50% of the overall cost.

In this article we will review all of the components of the COA, as well as provide you with a few examples in each category.  This will help you to begin estimating total college tuition costs per year for each college or university that you are considering.

The COA typically includes at least the following 4 elements:

1.  College Tuition Costs (Tuition & Fees)

These are your college tuition costs or the costs of your education.  They may vary based on your academic program and number of credit hours.  If the tuition is not the same for all full-time students, you may have to calculate your own college tuition costs based on the cost per credit hour.  You can usually find the cost per credit hour on the school’s website.  If not, don’t be afraid to contact the school directly.

If college tuition costs vary by academic program, make sure that you are looking at the cost per credit hour for your specific program!  Why is this important?  Because, the cost per credit hour for the School of Education may vary significantly from the cost per credit hour for the School of Engineering.  Be careful!  You want to ensure that you are calculating college tuition costs and fees accurately.

2. Room & Board

These are the college tuition costs costs billed by the college if you live on campus and have a meal plan.  These charges will vary depending on the room and meal plan you choose.  Again, these college tuition costs can usually be found on the school’s website.  If you plan to live off campus, you’ll need to make your own estimate for these expenses.  You may want to research apartments in the area and factor in roommates to get a more accurate estimate.

3. Miscellaneous Expenses

In addition to the standard college tuition costs, the costs for things like laundry and cell phone bills also need to be factored in.  If you do plan to live in an off campus apartment, you would also include other miscellaneous bills (i.e. electric, cable, and gas bills) in this category, along with an estimate for textbooks and supplies in this category.

4. Travel

You must also add travel costs to your total tuition costs total. These are costs related to traveling back and forth between school and home.  If you live over 200 miles away from school, then it might not be a bad idea to estimate how much it would cost to travel home and how often you plan to do so.

Once you’ve estimated all of the items listed above, you will need to deduct this amount from the financial aid you’ve received from Federal Student Aid and other private scholarships and institutional grant programs (if applicable).

So now that we’ve discussed how to estimate college tuition costs and other important COA components, I’ll provide you with a few college tuition cost-cutting tips & tactics: 

  • 1.  Buy used textbooks whenever possible. This will help you save money on textbooks, which can get very expensive!  Another option is to share a textbook with one of your classmates.  This way you can both split the cost of the book.
  • 2. Create a budget to stay on track each month. Let’s face it, most college students are on a pretty tight budget (especially freshman year).  Keeping a budget each month will allow you to maintain control of your spending and be more cognizant of your purchases.
  • 3.  Factor in costs related to your social and/or extracurricular activities. If you plan to join a fraternity or sorority, you’ll be expected to pay annual dues and other fees for various events.  The same holds true for sports teams or other clubs.

Now that you have all of the tools to help you calculate college tuition costs and all other related expenses, I’m confident that you will select a college that best aligns with your financial goals.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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