Paying For College

Paying for college is a major concern for college students. Here's a guide to college costs which includes detailed info on books, housing, financial aid and more expenses to help you manage college finances.

TCM Staff

17th September 2020

When it comes to planning for college enrollment it brings both excitement and nervousness, but paying for college remains the first and foremost major concern. The college cost and tuition can be an important concern for anyone who is planning to get into a college or already enrolled in any college. It’s always good to prepare your finances and major categories of your expenses. But if you are looking forward to getting into a college then it’s always good to prepare a budget for yourself with some important and realistic expenses. By creating a budget plan you can always control and save money. 

Paying for college - understanding costs and tuition

The college cost can include various items about which you might not even be aware, your college costs are always more than your room rents and tuition fees. We have listed them out all for you, by which you can lower your college costs. Here are seven main categories of expenses:-

1 - Tuition Fees

When it comes to college costs, tuition is the number one expense. Tuition fees are the cost you pay for taking classes at colleges and universities. Usually, course costs vary by college. Your college cost also depends on other factors such as your academic program or the number of credit hours you take or you are an in-state student or an out-state student.

In some academic programs, you need to pay additional fees which may include laboratory charges, library charges, or any extra services which you choose to take. Usually, your college course fees may vary from $12,000 to $40,000. While some of the expensive private colleges and universities provide some scholarships or financial aid to lower your college cost.

2 - Room Rent

Colleges provide accommodation on their campus for students. They usually offer them hostel room options including meal plans. This lodging and food combo charges may vary according to the plan you choose for yourself. You may have to pay higher prices if you want a single room for yourself or if you look for air-conditioned rooms.

Usually, any college will charge $9000 - $12,000 per year for your accommodation and meal plans. But it will be better if you live at home if your college is in the same city as this will help you to reduce your college costs. 

You can also rent a house for yourself with a few more students but you have to look for the average expenses that you will be going to pay for your groceries or student hangouts or in transportation.

3 - Books and other expenses

Books and stuff may cost you approx $1300 - $1500 per year depending on your courses. You always have to buy books and study materials for yourself. Books can be expensive most of the time. So what you can do is you can borrow some books from your seniors or the college libraries, or you can use sites like Amazon where you can rent books or sell them at the end of your semesters, or you can buy used books at lower prices.

Other college stuff that will add up in your college costs are backpacks, notebooks, pencil, pen, and more.

4 - Equipment and room materials

Before heading towards the college you need to buy some optional and some essential materials for yourself, which may include a laptop, a printer, printer papers, a table lamp, a microwave, bed sheets towels, and more. These can cost a significant amount of money, although they would have to be invested only once or twice.

5 - Personal Expenses

If you have decided to live in the rooms provided by the college on their campus then they will provide you some essential items. But still, you need to buy many personal items. Since you are away from home you need to make a list of your expenses such as phone bills, clothing, groceries, laundry, cosmetics, and other personal care items. You also need to pay for your health care and medication sometimes if needed.

College life is the time where you socialize the most and you hardly ignore it. So there will be a time where you spend on your outings, traveling, eating out, etc. So, always count for every possible expense that you can do. This will help you to know your expenses better. And on an average, you can add $5000 in your college costs for your personal expenses.

6 - Transportation

Living on a college campus can reduce your college costs as you will save the transportation cost every day. But if you reside outside the college campus then you have to pay for all your travel expenses. If you use public transports then they will allow you some student discounts, which you must use. Some colleges provide transportation services but mostly it costs a high amount of money. If you own your vehicle then you have to pay for gas and sometimes parking fees also. Try to spend $1500 annually on your transportation and travel. 

Other than these situations, if you live away from your home then you must travel to your home in your breaks and vacations which will cost you a decent amount of money so keep an account for all your transportation costs.

7 - College Activity Fees

Every college costs a particular amount of money as their activity fees. These activities may include gym access, music clubs, dance and drama clubs, and some other extracurricular activities. Before getting enrolled ask your college to show their all fees so that you can plan your budget according to that.

How you can decrease the college costs

Colleges and universities don’t only demand additional cost in tuition fees but they also charge extra for rooms and boards along with book prices, transportation, and several other requirements. Before getting enrolled in any college the first thing one should do is to research nicely about that college and expected costs. This will help you to make a planned budget for the future and you can also find some ways to reduce your college costs.

Here we have discussed a few tips that you can follow to lower your college costs:-

  • Learn to budget - Set a budget for yourself and stick to it. Sometimes there will be a time when you need to stretch the budget so try to save for your emergencies. Try to fend yourself from the extra expenditure

  • College and university costs may vary from one another. There are many colleges and universities that provide affordable tuition and generous financial aid. Before getting enrolled in any college, research about all the colleges that meet your academic expectations and financial needs

  • You may be able to earn credits based on your knowledge and experiences which will help you to reduce your college costs

  • You can choose an integrated course or three-year program provided by some colleges for yourself. These courses will allow you to complete your graduation in three years instead of four. This type, of course, eliminates your one-year expenses

Colleges and universities decrease your tuition fees if you fall under these criteria - 

  1. If your parents belong to the same college

  2. You are a student government leader

  3. Your family member is the staff of the college

  4. Your family’s main earner is unemployed

  5. If you belong to a low-income family

Some other tips you can consider - 

  • Consider living with your families or at home if your college is in the same city this can cut your cost

  • Consider sharing your apartment with multiple housemates to cut your rent and transportation costs

  • You can do a part-time job to pay a part of your cost. But don’t let your job and college time contradict each other and you should have enough time to study

  • Buy used books or borrow books from your seniors and libraries, and rent books if you don’t need it


Planning an annual budget is a tough task and sticking to it can be much tougher. However, it always has some positive aspects like you will always be on track and can avoid extra and unnecessary spendings. These small steps can add up a big change in your life and you will learn new things.

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