The Hidden Costs of College

Calculating the true cost of going to college can be tricky. When thinking about college costs, normally we stop at tuition. For some reason, college students think tuition is the only cost. This is not the case at all. In fact, it may not even be the biggest cost. There are many things in college life that add up. Even relatively inexpensive items can greatly add to the cost of college tuition.

To figure the true cost of going to college, you must consider these.

Below is a list of costs that must be figured in.


The cost per unit the college or university charges. For example, let's say your college charges $400 a unit. If you take 12 units, your tuition is $4800. Many colleges have a maximum tuition charged. Using the example above, let's say the college charges a flat tution of $5400 for 13 or more units. Then, it would be cost effective to take 14 or more units and save money.


These can be for anything and they add up. Colleges charge fees for sports, health, computer room,student services, almost anything they can think of. Normally they are a couple of dollars each, but fees do add up quickly.

Class Fees:

Tuition for some reason does not mean that's the only cost per class. If you take a science class with a lab, chances are you are going to pay a lab or materials fee.


Some textbooks can cost over $150. Some college classes may require having more than one book. Taking 4 classes may mean purchasing more than 4 textbooks. This can be a budget killer. Get tips to save on textbooks here.


Sometimes called "room" as in room and board. If you live in the dorm, this is your housing cost. Living off campus means paying rent unless you live with your parents. No shame in living with your parents. It cuts the college costs way down.


Sometimes called "board" as in room and board. This is the cost of your meal plan on campus if you dorm. If not, think about what your meals and snacks will cost per day and spread that over the term. It can add up. If you choose a meal plan, make sure you use it! If you are one who does not like to eat in the campus cafeteria, then DO NOT get a meal plan!


If you live on campus, this cost is cheap. If not, you must factor in the cost of gas, car insurance, or public transportation. If you don't want the hassle of finding a free parking space off campus, you will need to pay for a parking pass. Don't forget the cost of traveling home between terms.

School Supplies:

The college is not going to give you paper, pencils, pens, calculators, college backpacks, and other items you need to study, take notes, and complete assignments with.


Your laptop and campus computers may be good enough. But think about the cost of upgrading and having a desktop in your dorm.

We haven't even mentioned stuff like clothes, movies, and other entertainment. When thinking about the true cost of attending college, tuition is actually a small part. You can expect to pay many more times the tuition in other costs related to going to college. To find the true cost, list all the items above and how much they cost for the year. Then you will get a clear picture as to how much college can cost.

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