Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hidden College Costs and How to Manage Them

As if tuition isn't enough, there are some hidden expenses that come along with post-secondary education. Here are some of the most relevant, non-tuition related costs that college students pay and how you can better factor those into your budget.

  • Books / Supplies
    Most incoming college students don't anticipate the high cost of textbooks because in high school they are free. Well, that's not the case anymore. In face, many college-level books sell for around $100-$200. Don't panic. There are many ways to lower these costs. One way is to buy used books online, which tend to be cheaper than book-store prices. Another way is to rent. If you know you won't need a particular book after you have taken the class, rent it rather than buying it. Rental prices can be almost half the price of a purchased book. Buying an older edition of the book is also cheaper than buying the newest version. Just make sure there are no big differences between the editions and double check the class syllabus to make sure you don't need a particular edition.
    You can also sell your books back to vendors on campus at the end of each semester.
    Amazon and Chegg also offer online buyback programs.
    Aside from books, some professors require other supplies for their classes. Some of these supplies may include interactive computer/phone applications, hand-held clickers (response devices), or subscriptions to newspapers/magazines.
    There are several scholarships available for textbooks and supplies. Some are offered through certain colleges/universities, while others are available through online contests.
    One yearly textbook scholarship contest is: The Akademos/TexbookX Textbook Scholarship Contest,
  • Food
    Sticking to a meal plan can become difficult when you're hungry during hours when the dining hall is closed or if you run out of meal swipes by Saturday. If this is the case, you will probably end up making a trip to campus markets, a nearby grocery store, or restaurants on campus. The costs of food can really add up. My advice is to plan in advance and make a run to the grocery store at the beginning of each month. That way you can get some food to keep in your room at a much lower price than it would be to eat out.
  • Laundry
    The price of laundry can be anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 per wash or dry. At Ohio University, The price of one wash is $0.75 and one dry is $1.25. These prices can add up if you have multiple loads to do. The best advice I can give is to keep track of all of your quarters and to make sure you are only washing clothes that need to be cleaned (a lot of people tend to just throw clothes in the hamper after trying them on once, which leads to bigger loads and more money).
  • Printing
    Some schools allow a certain amount of free printed pages per semester; however, other schools do charge small fees per printed page. Usually black and white prints are around 5 to 10 cents, whereas a color print will be around 10 to 20 cents. At OU, printing fees are billed directly to your student account, but at other schools printers may accept change. Also at OU, students are able to print for free in their college/major's computer lab. For example, communication studies majors are allowed to print in the Lasher computer lab for free!
  • Transportation
    Transportation costs can fluctuate, depending on whether you commute or not, how far you live from school, and if you don't commute - how often you plan to go home. Also, if you decide to keep your car at school, you will most likely have to pay for a parking pass which can be a big chunk of money. Also look out for meters and correct parking locations. Parking violations result in hefty tickets.
    There are cheaper ways to get around campus without a car. Many students bike to and from class. Also, many schools offer bus systems that go to nearby grocery stores or plazas. Don't forget you can always carpool as well. 
  • Dorm Necessities
    Twin XL bedding, bed-loft, mini fridge, microwave, carpet, and vacuum may be among your list of things to buy for your dorm room. While it is important to make your dorm room feel "homey" and to utilize space, you must be aware of the high prices of futons, TVs, coffee machines, and other items that you may not necessarily need. 
  • Organization Fees
    Members of particular clubs and organizations have to pay fees to be considered "active." Sororities and fraternities tend to fall on the higher end of the cost-spectrum. Fees for sororities and fraternities vary greatly among different universities, but on average they range anywhere from $200-$1,000 a semester. Club sports also tend to be a bit expensive, but it depends on the school and the sport. Also, smaller clubs (i.e. communications club) have smaller fees like $30 a semester or $50 a year. 
  • EntertainmentCollege isn't just all work and no play. There is always something fun going on around campus for students to hang out and get involved. There are sporting events, movies, plays, comedians, art shows, and so much more. Some of these events charge entrance fees, so keep that in mind.
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