Home Education Options College Expenses Can Provoke ‘Sticker Shock’ for First-Time Students
College Expenses Can Provoke ‘Sticker Shock’ for First-Time Students

College Expenses Can Provoke ‘Sticker Shock’ for First-Time Students


By Ryan Laspina
Analyst, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

As you get ready to apply for college for the first time, do you know what the total cost of your expenses will be? The combined total of all your college expenses is your Cost of Attendance (COA), which adds up quickly and might increase year after year.

Typical College Expenses Vary Widely, but You Can Reduce Them

Here are the expenses that make up your COA and some advice on how to lower those costs:

  1. Tuition Tuition fees are typically established per course or semester and include all the charges associated with instructional services. Tuition varies by school. In-state schools, online schools and community colleges usually have lower tuition than out-of-state schools and private schools. Financial aid offices can help you identify scholarships that can help you pay tuition costs.
  1. Room and board The biggest annual expense usually is your room and board (housing and meals). On-campus housing and meal plans usually cost more than living at home, but those expenses are lower than off-campus housing and restaurants. Students who commute to a local college or attend online do not typically incur these high living costs.
  1. Books and supplies College textbooks often carry an exorbitant price tag. School supplies (books, backpacks, pens and pencils, laptops, printers and special materials for science and art courses) add up. Try buying used textbooks online or at your school bookstore. With the exception of course-specific technology or software, there is no reason to spend a lot of money on fancy supplies. Usually, basic school supplies will suffice.
  1. Fees One-time or annual fees are often charged for educational expenses not covered by your tuition. They can vary significantly across schools and cover a wide range of expenses, such as registering for classes; using equipment, gyms or labs; or for parking. There is really no way to avoid such fees, so make sure you research all the fees your school will expect you to pay and budget accordingly.
  1. Personal and miscellaneous expenses While in school, you will have other miscellaneous expenses. For example, commuter students should budget for transportation and gasoline costs. Resident students will pay for some on-campus activities and online students will have to budget for Internet/Wi-Fi service. You can reduce these expenses by following a budget and understanding the concept of needs against wants.

Setting Up a Budget for College Expenses Is Helpful

There is no way to get around it: attending college is expensive. For many students, it can be hard to save up for even one semester of classes, which makes borrowing student aid necessary. But by setting a budget and sticking to it, you can reduce your costs and avoid huge student loan debts.