5 Factors that Impact the Price of College

Summer is almost over, and with it comes the beginning of another school year for millions of students.

While your high school student is taking standardized tests, visiting campuses, and gearing up for graduation, you’ll probably find yourself spending some time with net income calculators on college websites.

Between the books, housing, meal plans, and more, you’ll quickly discover that tuition is not the only expense you need to consider.

College Board’s ‘Trends in College Pricing Report 2014’ reported tuition and fees were only 39% of expenses for in-state students living on campus at public four-year universities during the 2014-2015 school year.

For students attending private four-year universities and living on campus, tuition and fees ($31,231 on average) were about 68% of the total expenses.

The remaining college expenses are room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenditures.

Unfortunately, parents have little control over many college costs, and those extra fees can quickly eat into your savings. Help your student keep costs low by discussing the following:

The Time Factor

College Board reported 59% of students required six years to get a degree. Additional years spent in college increase the cost of schooling significantly, so make sure your student stays on track, or looks into taking a summer course if they fall behind.

Tuition Breaks

Some schools offer ways to reduce tuition. These include tuition guarantee programs (that offer flat tuition rates for four years), tuition reductions for students who visit, and regional tuition breaks.

Make sure your student notes which colleges have these offers, and that they factor them into their final decision.

Housing Options

Many colleges and universities require students to live on campus, in dormitories, for one or two years. After that, students can seek out alternatives off campus.

Often, off-campus options may be less expensive, especially if your student shares an apartment or house. The price can vary widely depending on the city, so be sure to look up average housing costs nearby as well.

Another option is for parents to buy a house or condominium near campus as an investment property. The rent received from a student’s roommates can help defray costs, and it’s possible the property may be sold at a profit sometime in the future.

Of course, the least expensive option by far is for student to live at home, if possible.

Books and Supplies

U.S. News estimated the cost of textbooks at $1,200 a year, on average. Fortunately, there are some ways to significantly lower that cost.

  • Make sure you need it. Your student will receive a list of required books for each course prior to the start of the semester, but they won’t need to buy all of them. Some are simply listed to met university mandates, but aren’t even included in the professor’s syllabus. Others, such as novels, can be borrowed from the library.
  • Shop around on price. The campus bookstore is rarely the least expensive option. Encourage your student to look online or ask older students who might be selling their copies. They can also rent the book if they don’t think you’ll need the book as a reference later.

There are a myriad of ways to reduce the expenses associated with college. Make sure your student factors in all of the costs and considers all of their options so they’re not surprised by the final bill.

It’s also important to save for college. If you haven’t already, you may want to open a 529 college savings plan account. Contributions are not deductible on your federal tax return, but any earnings grow tax-deferred, and distributions used to pay qualified college expenses are federally tax-free.

If you have questions about saving for college, contact Brett Pittsenbargar at BP Financial today.