There are five factors usually included when calculating the total price of attending a college each year:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board
- Books and supplies
- Personal expenses
- Transportation expenses
Tuition and Fees: Students pay tuition for receiving instruction at the school. In addition, there are fees automatically charged for services such as the health center, library or student activities. Tuition and fees at public institutions are usually the lowest, especially for students who are residents of that state. Most public colleges charge higher rates for out-of-state students, unless there is a form of reciprocity. Reciprocity is an agreement between states allowing out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition. Tuition and fees are typically the highest at private colleges.
Room and Board: This refers to the basic price of living at school during the academic year. "Room" refers to housing, whether it's in an on-campus dormitory or in an off-campus apartment. "Board" refers to the price of eating, whether it's in the college cafeteria or buying food and preparing meals yourself.
Books and Supplies: Unlike high school, many college students are expected to buy their own books. In addition, they're expected to buy whatever they need to complete their courses. The price of books and supplies depends more on the courses a student takes than on the type of school a student attends. For example, physics students often have to pay for expenses in lab work. Art students must buy their own art supplies such as paint, brushes, etc. Students should plan to spend at least $800 each academic year on books and supplies. Buying used textbooks can help students save money, and may be available in the campus bookstore or from online used booksellers.
Personal Expenses: Regardless of the type of institution the student chooses, he or she will have some personal expenses such as laundry, clothing, recreation, medical care, insurance, etc. Students should plan to spend at least $1,000 each academic year on these items.
Transportation Expenses: All students spend some money for travel, whether they live on campus or commute to school daily. Students living on or near campus must travel there at the start of the school year and return home at the end. The expenses of traveling home must be considered as an additional expense. For the purpose of financial aid, colleges typically budget students for two round-trips home each year using the lowest-cost means of travel.
Commuter students who travel to and from the school on a daily basis must carefully figure in the cost of fuel and parking or public transportation. Both can add up quickly. The transportation costs for commuter students are also built into the financial aid calculations used by the school.
Please see the "Financial Aid Weblinks" page for several helpful links.
Videos about Paying for College: With families worried about college costs, the MN Private College Council co-produced these clips and programs with the MN Office of Higher Ed, working with TPT's MN Channel. There are ones in Hmong, Spanish and Somali too. And yes, some focus on paying for a private nonprofit college. Click Here for more information.