Do You Know the Full Cost of College?

Do You Know the Full Cost of College?

When you look at how much college will cost, are you comparing schools based on “sticker price” – that is, tuition and fees – and that’s it?

If so, you’re making a mistake. The “tuition and fees” price of college is actually only 50 – 70% of the true cost of going to school.

Maybe, if you’re aware, you look at the college’s estimates for books and room and board and add those in too.

Now you’re getting closer, but you’re still not there.

The Costs No One Budgets For

College is an expensive endeavor, and even when you buy the biggest room and board package it’s far from an all-inclusive resort.

You may plan on your student having a job that covers incidental food, activities, and life in general. Even still, there are tons of expenses that catch students and their parents by surprise every year. Here are just a few of the costs very few people think of budgeting for.

Dorm and Apartment Furnishing

Furnishing a dorm room is not cheap! There’s all kinds of small things that add up – a dorm fridge, microwave, sheet sets, comforter, decorations, and more. Many students are their families find themselves struggling to pay the expense, which can easily range from $750 – $1500.  

Furnishing a dorm and/or apartment is an expense that catches many families by surprise. Other expenses often overlooked are the cost of laundry, cleaning supplies, and cell service or internet access which can add $100-$300 monthly out of pocket.

Travel – Part 1

Many families look forward to having their students come home on weekends, holidays and school breaks, but they underestimate how much it costs to get them back and forth.

Travel – especially if your student is out-of-state – can be expensive. Will they fly home frequently? Will you drive to pick them up? What is the cost of gas, food, and lodging for the trip?

Even if your child is close to home, the gas, wear on a car, and incidentals from road trips can cost a pretty penny.

The other costs to consider when traveling home are not always having access to resources such as the campus library, the internet, a computer with the right software at home to continue with assignments, and access to professors and/or tutoring.

Travel – Part 2

How is your student going to get around on campus? If you provide a car or scooter, also plan to pay for tickets, towing charges due to parking mistakes, and regular repairs.

If your student can’t have a car, you might consider buying them a moped or scooter to get around. That expense can be $1000 – $1500, not including a helmet or storage lock.

And, of course, there’s car insurance. If your student is going to school in a larger city, expect to find that insuring a young driver in that environment will be quite expensive.

Between travel on camps and travel coming home, many families find themselves paying thousands of dollars they didn’t count on.


Congratulations, your student was selected for a prestigious semester abroad, or an amazing internship over the summer! The only question is, what are you going to do with his or her personal belongings during that time?

Many times, students find it impractical to bring everything they own at school home for school breaks, summers, or semesters abroad. As a result, parents find themselves paying for storage units to keep things safe until they return.

Generally, storing personal items between school terms is an unexpected cost.

Covering the Extra Costs of College

If a student or family finds themselves surprised by enough expenses, the results can be devastating. A college fund can be used up in just 2.5 or 3 years, leaving a student with the choice to leave school or take on significant debt. Often these students are considered the highest risk as they will not be able to take advantage of a higher salary degree offers and will still have to maintain payments for school loans. 

School loans are not a great solution either. Statistics show that in 2015, 68% of college seniors had college debt. Their debt averaged $30,100 per borrower.

At the same time, 41% of the graduating classes of 2013 and 2014 were making $25,000 or less after graduation. Only 25% of those classes make $40,000 or more.

It doesn’t take a college math degree to see that those numbers don’t add up! Starting life in the “real world” with a crushing debt load and a low salary is not a formula for success.

Students and their families need a better solution. Students need to know how to make their own money on their own terms – in college and beyond.

When they do, they can meet the financial challenges they face with less debt, and position themselves for success in college and after graduation.

That’s where Plan to Succeed can help. Our Right Steps Conferences help prepare your student and your family for success in college and afterward. You can attend an upcoming event.

Want to learn more? Visit for upcoming events. Email for more information!


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