The Factors Affecting the Costs of College
Additional Costs to Take Into Account When Comparing
College acceptance letters and financial aid award packages usually arrive in early spring every year. Parents and their high school seniors carefully scrutinize each line in the agonizing process of trying to make the final choice. While a lot has been said about determining the net cost of attending a college, there are a few additional costs to take into consideration. You initially want to determine the costs of tuition and other costs to attend each selected college and subtract the amount of “free” money available in grants and school scholarships.
Look at the number of student loans you or your child will be required to take out and this will help determine a net out-of-pocket cost. But there is one more column you should add to your spreadsheet to help determine the actual cost of attending a particular school. These are the costs that might not be so obvious, but they can add thousands of dollars in expenses each year to your family’s budget. Try to get a handle on the following additional factors that can affect your child before making a final decision:
Cost of Living
Unless the school is totally isolated, your child is going to be living in an area that will require certain expenses. You want your student’s college experience to be well-rounded, but off-campus forays can put a huge dent in the budget. WalletHub ranked 280 cities and towns in the U.S. to find the ones with the most promising combination of academic achievement, social environment, and economic affordability. Not surprisingly, colleges in smaller towns like Oxford, Ohio and Stage College, Penn. came up highest on the list. Another advantage of “college towns” is that local businesses often cater to the college community with student discounts, while colleges in major metropolitan areas may not be so focused on students.
If you are expecting your child to hold a part-time job off-campus during the school year, make a quick check to determine how many jobs are actually available. Smaller towns might not have the range that a city can offer. Proximity to businesses in your child’s chosen profession could also be important to increase the potential for internship opportunities or post-graduation employment.
This doesn’t just refer to the cost of getting your child back and forth to campus (although that should definitely be taken into consideration). This refers to the transportation needs your child will have once the parents leave for home. Is there a closed campus that is easily walkable, or will your child be in a city where a daily commute is necessary? If your child lives off-campus, how will he or she get to campus? Any costs for vehicles your child has on campus should be taken into consideration as well.
If your student will not be living in campus dorms, this element could add a whole new dimension to the out-of-pocket budget. Research apartment costs near campus, find out about public transportation options and do a little more research into the local economy to put together a budget for food and household items. This should also include such extras as utilities, cable, Wi-Fi, laundry, cell phone, and other monthly expenses.
Choosing a college can be both a fun and frightening experience, and it can be intimidating trying to make the right choice. Just keep in mind that the more information you have before making a decision, the better your decisions will be for you and your college student.