Understanding College Expenses
STEP 1 – Review the Published Sticker Price
Start by reviewing the published Sticker Price of each college. This is the approximate price you will pay if you are not awarded any grants or scholarships. On many web sites the Sticker Price will be called the Cost of Attendance or the Student Expense Budget.
Every college publishes an updated estimate of the Sticker Price each year. The estimate typically includes the following expenses:
- Tuition & Fees
- Room & Board
- Personal Expenses
- Some colleges include Travel estimates as well.
- There are other common expenses you should be aware of as well.
STEP 2 – Customize the Sticker Price
The published expense figures are usually reasonable estimates and a good place to start.
That said, the published figures often represent the typical or average expenses for an incoming first-year student. This means that your actual costs might differ from the published estimates based on the range of options provided by the school and the choices you make regarding housing, meal plans, books, personal expenses & travel. Sometimes the these differences add up to significant savings (or additional cost).
Step 3 – Project Expenses for All Four Years
There can be big differences between the first year expenses and expenses for sophomore, junior and senior years.
In order to produce the most accurate total estimate it is VERY IMPORTANT to carefully review the school policies and offerings that might impact your ACTUAL costs over all four years. There are no shortcuts but our tip sheets and worksheets will help guide you through the process.
Good News/Bad News
Don’t assume the worst. Although your research will sometimes uncover extra costs it is just as likely that you will discover opportunities to reduce expenses.
Step 4 – Don’t Panic. Remember that it is the Net Price that is Most Important.
Although the published Sticker Price for many colleges is scary high number, many students qualify for discounts that result in a much lower Net Price.