Be Aware of Hidden Costs at College

Of course, the largest expense of attending college is tuition. But there are other fees you may be overlooking or feel you don't need to be concerned about. By reading this blog, you can discover or learn more about some of the hidden costs you need to factor into your college education.

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College Expenses You Need to Pay Attention To

Prospective college students often look primarily at tuition as an indicator of a college's cost. Most are also savvy enough to factor in room and board when analyzing expected expenses. But as any recent college grad can attest to, it's often other charges that can bust student budgets. Learn about hidden college costs and what students can do to save.

Don't Forget Fees

Tuition, accommodation and meals are widely recognized expenses of a college education. But another major cost that students often overlook or underestimate is fees. Schools are increasingly adding fees as a way to charge for services without raising tuition. This practice has come into vogue because laws often restrict public schools from raising tuition, but not certain fees. Private colleges also may have locks on what can be charged for tuition. Not reflected in tuition estimates, separate service fees can lead to higher college costs students may not be ready for.

Higher ed institutions are not shy about implementing a multitude of fees. Among them are student activity fees, technology fees, lab fees, recreation center fees, orientation fees, transit fees, library fees, athletic fees and even health fees - which may be necessary to access health care at an on-campus clinic. Because they are often for crucial services, getting out of paying these fees can be difficult even if they are not mandatory. Just keep fees in mind when making a decision about which college to attend. Fees may be hidden or hard to find on an institution's website. However, the College Board and Department of Education both factor fees into their analyses of school prices.

Other Campus Essentials

While it is often hard to get out of paying college fees, there are other potential student expenses that can be more easily avoided - or at least controlled. One area where you can save money is in furnishing your dorm room or apartment. For example, colleges may charge hundreds of dollars for the rental of mini-fridges, toaster ovens, coffee makers and other appliances. There may also be exorbitant costs for extra-long sheets that fit dorm beds. You can skip out on these charges by decking out your living space with hand-me-downs from home, freebies found online or low-cost options from a discount retailer.

Other necessities may also be cheaper to purchase on your own rather than through school. For instance, many colleges provide student health insurance that can range from $1,500 to $2,000 a year. Very likely, you'll be better off sticking with any family health insurance plan that covers you. Know that you may have to actively opt-out of student health insurance, and that colleges may not go out of their way to call out the charge. Moving on to another form of consumer protection, you can skip college-affiliated renter's insurance if a parent plan covers your stuff at school. If this is the case, verify with your college that you're not paying for their insurance.

Limiting Nonessentials

Countless lifestyle expenses can also drain students' bank accounts - and add to college debt. Transportation and parking costs can average more than $1,000 a year, making keeping a car at home a good decision. Electronics and media expenses can also add up quickly - especially if you have yet to purchase a computer for school. Look for bargains on essential devices and cut out non-essentials, like flat-screen TVs, video game systems and cable. College students on average spend $750 a year on clothing, an expense that can be brought down by finding deals online and hitting thrift shops.

Getting involved on campus adds to the college experience, but know that you often have to pay for your fun. Fraternity and sorority dues, athletic events and nights out at campus hotspots will all be in addition to cost-of-attendance projections. When you're hanging around campus, at least, your student ID card should be good for a discount. Even if you're smart with purchases, though, you stand to rack up serious debt if you're often ordering pizza, seeing movies and going to nightclubs. Remember that institutions providing estimates of entertainment expenses are often modest in their assessments.

Who couldn't use more money? Get 40 student suggestions for keeping more of your cash.

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