Incremental increases in college tuition tends to get a lots of headlines, but tuition is just one of the expenses that students and parents need to pay attention to, in order to understand the true cost of higher education.

So as a student heading off for college, or a parent getting ready to write that check, listen to this important notice: Be prepared for a little shock if you haven’t taken all expenses into consideration.

Tuition, room, board, and books are the standards for school, but a lot of students and parents alike aren’t familiar with certain fees because they seem hidden.

These hidden fees are one of the major reason some students opt to go the online college route because there is significant savings in the cost of tuition, books and residential fees. But then, there are also hidden costs that drive up the expense of a distance education too. Sincerely, there are buried costs in both online and traditional institutions.

Looking at a collegesl’s base tuition is just the start of considering the true cost of a college degree. Asides the ton of hidden fees, expenses like meal plans, parking, school supplies, and insurance premiums can add up.

Many colleges and universities also have mandatory and/or course fees while some fees such as class-specific fees may include charges for materials (e.g., art, chemistry, biology, physics, etc.), studio or practice room time and laboratory fees are not included in the list of required fees. The same is true for per-use fees (such as the athletic facility or pool or weight rooms). Sadly, even when a college has a “comprehensive” fee, the fee usually isn’t all-inclusive.

There are also some costs that are not eligible for student financial aid, such as costs that occur before enrollment and fees for graduate admissions tests, test prep and application fees. Also, licensing exams fees and post-undergraduate campus visits may not be covered by financial aid.


The cost of college is continuing to rise, but not just because of tuition increases. Here are some expenses to consider.

Health Fee ($10.84)

Athletics Fee ($14.32)

Transportation Access Fee ($9.10)

Student Financial Aid Fee ($5.16)

Student Activity Fee ($11.67)

Capital Improvement Fees ($6.76)

Technology Fee ($5.16)

Room and board: $10,138 (Average annual cost of housing at a public, four-year college)

Books: $1,298 (Average annual cost of books and supplies at a public, four-year college)

Transportation: Whether you use public transport or  drive your own car, making it to class also comes at a cost you. Parking on campus can range anywhere from $40 per semester to $2,500, depending on where the college is located. Parking at campuses in bigger, busier cities tends to cost more while public transport per semester will be around $3,215 (Average cost of transportation and other personal expenses at a public, four-year college)

Laundry: Most washers and dryers cost $1.50 for each use. Washing a few times a week can cost you between $9 and $12, plus the cost of detergent and softener.

Meals: Whether you live on campus or not, you’re probably going to be there long enough to need a snack. The shops and restaurants in college student centers don’t come cheap at times, and snack prices add up over months. A typical budget per semester for a student who eats most meals on campus is $500 – $1,000.

Facility fees: Hidden in tuition for traditional universities are fees for things like an on-campus gym, the campus swimming pool and computer labs. You’re charged whether you use them or not. Average tuition with facility fees will be around $7,000 per year at a state school, and around $26,000 per year for a private institution.

Tech: The average college student owns  tech devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptop, video game consoles and more.


Here is a checklist of many of the unanticipated college costs, put together for adequate planning before going off to college:

  • Credit card/student loan interest
  • College fees
    • Admissions Acceptance Deposit
    • Student health fees
    • Athletic center fees
    • Student activity fees
    • Orientation fees
    • Matriculation/new student fees
    • Graduation/commencement fees
    • Technology/lab fees
  • Textbooks and supplies
  • Health insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Gas/car maintenance
  • Bus pass
  • Computer/tablet
  • Computer software
  • Printing/photocopying costs
  • Cell phone
    • New phone
    • Service
  • Internet/cable
  • Dorm furnishings
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Rent
    • Utilities
    • Deposit
    • Renter’s insurance
    • Parking spot
  • Meals
  • Food for dorm
  • Wardrobe purchases
  • Entertainment
  • Student activities
    • Sports games
    • Greek living fees (sorority/fraternity)
    • Concerts

Teaching teenagers how to handle their personal finances before going off to college properly can set them on a clearer path toward collegiate and post-graduate success.

Have you discovered any fees that we didn’t include above? Were you surprised by what your tuition bill ended up being.  We would love to hear from you. Share your experience below.  

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