Calculating the Cost of College

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated April 28, 2015)

Being able to go to college can be one of the most exciting times in the lives of young adults and their parents. However, before you allow the excitement to be too much, time should be taken to figure out the cost of college. College can be, and is quickly becoming, one of the most expensive things that anyone can ever purchase. Before committing to any specific college, one of the first things that you should do is begin calculating the cost of college. It shouldn't surprise anyone, but not all colleges are going to cost the same. Calculating the cost of college isn't that difficult, all you need to do is follow these guidelines and you will have a good idea of what college is going to cost.

  • Books, labs, and tuition. When you think about the cost of college, invariably the cost that most people think of is that of tuition. Usually this is the single largest block of money that people experience when going to college, and can run from around $9,000 for state or public schools, to as high as $40,000 to attend a private school. What's more, is that this cost is an annual cost, and you are expected to pay this each and every year. Added to this cost is also the expense of books and labs. College books can often run to over a $100.00 for a single book in a single class, and labs themselves are even more.
  • Getting around. You will also need to think about how you are going to get around while you are going to school. Not just how you are going to be getting around town, but the cost of travel from the school to your home (or at least to you parents home) each year. Remember that this cost will also be changing each and every year, and if the rates for airplane tickets keep going like they are, it will only be getting more and more expensive.
  • Food and housing. About the only way that you can really eliminate the cost of housing is if you are living in student housing provided by the school. Typically the dorm life will pale after the first year, so you should consider that the average rent for an apartment is going to range from about $500 a month to as high as $1000 a month depending on the type of apartment. Don't forget to count the cost of food either. Without careful planning, a college student can easily find themselves spending up to $400 a month on food alone..
  • Tools. College is going to require that you purchase or have access to a lot of different tools. Some of these tools include things like computers, printers, ink, paper, pens, folders, specialized lab tools, and so on. If you are really lucky, this can cost you as low as $1,000 a year, but can easily run you around $2,500 a year.
  • Costs change. For whatever reason, costs will change over time. This is a little difficult to calculate at first, since you can never really plan on what may affect the overall economy. However, a great number to use for planning purposes is to figure that the total cost of all your expenses will increase by about 10% each year. While the average cost of inflation has been about 2.5%, this higher percentage rate will ensure that you cover most foreseeable problems.
  • Pocket money. Despite what many parents may like to think, no young adult will ever go to college and only go to class. Every young adult is going to have some kind of a social life, and that money is going to come out of your pocket (the college student's, unless you have some really nice parents). On average, a person can expect to pay at least $500 a year on movies, going out to eat, and other social items.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


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