The College Costs Parents Need To Be Aware Of

Making Sense of Cents and College Ave Student Loans have partnered on a series of blog posts on what to expect when it comes to planning for college…especially when it comes to time to pay.  Through the series, we hope families gain a little more insight on how to tackle the next four or more…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 12, 2018

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Making Sense of Cents and College Ave Student Loans have partnered on a series of blog posts on what to expect when it comes to planning for college…especially when it comes to time to pay.  Through the series, we hope families gain a little more insight on how to tackle the next four or more years ahead with a stronger financial footing. All opinions are 100% my own.

College costs can vary widely.

According to Forbes, tuition for an in-state public college averages around $28,000. Private college tuition was double that amount at an average of $59,000.

For a four year elite university, the cost jumps to $68,000.

And, if your student is enrolled in higher education for something like medicine or law, college costs may reach hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

When most people think about the cost of college, they tend to only think about the price of tuition at a certain college. However, there are many other college costs that should be thought about as well.

College tuition and fees

This will most likely be the biggest expense that you and/or your student pay. Fees can include laboratory fees, graduation fees (I have one friend who had to pay over $600 in order to RENT a graduation cap and gown!).

Room and board

Will your student live on campus or not? If your student decides to live on campus, then he or she will probably have to pay for room and board – both for the dormitory and eating at the college’s cafeteria.

Living off campus? Be aware your student may have to sign a 12-month lease. Even if he or she is not there during the summer months, your student will be on the hook for the monthly payment, unless he or she finds someone to take over the rent (if that is allowed by the rental contract).

And, don’t forget about the cost to furnish the new space – the larger the space, the more items (furniture, appliances, etc.) your student may need.

Textbooks and supplies

Textbooks and supplies can add up quickly.

Textbooks can easily cost at least a few hundred dollars each semester. Supplies can include a laptop, school bags, and more. And, be prepared for technical malfunctions. Laptops and tablets may need to be repaired or replaced over the course of the school year.

When I was in college, I usually only went to the college bookstore for one reason, and that was to find out what textbooks I needed. Then, I would go online and compare prices, and usually I ended up renting my textbooks each semester.


When it comes to surprise expenses for college students, Harlan Cohen, best-selling author of The Naked Roommate and host of The Naked Financial Minute with College Ave Student Loans, says many college students report the cost of food as the number one surprise cost. And now, many student IDs allow students to swipe their cards at local restaurants. If your student does this every week – a latte here, a sandwich there – it can add up to over $1,000 in extra food costs over the course of the school year.


Your college student will want to have fun while in college!  Cohen says to make sure this is a line item in your student’s budget.

Student clubs

Is your student interested in joining a Greek sorority or fraternity? If so, be prepared for fees that can run into the thousands of dollars, not including the extra activities or fundraisers he or she may need to support and join. 

And, other student clubs and extracurricular activities can add up as well. Do they need uniforms for the sport club team? Is their service organization traveling over spring break to volunteer?


Will the college student have a car or is mostly everything they need right on campus?

The cost of a car, car insurance, fuel, and more can add up quite quickly.  And don’t forget, the university may charge parking fees.


Traveling to and from college costs money too. The further away your student lives, the more money he or she will most likely have to pay in transportation costs, such as airfare.

And if you visit the campus, you may have to pay for airfare, hotel stays, taxi fares, and more.

The farther away you live, the more moving expenses could cost, too. How are you getting items from home to the apartment or dorm?

And as a good rule of thumb, Cohen says to always budget for one more trip than expected – your student may want to visit friends, relatives, someone could be sick at home, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a pet are just a few examples. 

Once you add in the extra fees and what can sometimes feel like surprise costs around college, you have a more robust picture of the cost of college. If you find you and your student need additional funds to help cover extra college expenses, one option for parents to explore is a private parent loan, such as the one offered by College Ave Student Loans. The Parent Loan from College Ave Student Loans starts at $2,000 and can cover up to 100 percent of the student’s cost of attendance. Parents can also have up to $2,500 deposited in their bank account to help with extra education expenses so parents can control the money for books, electronics, dorm supplies and more.

To learn more, visit:

What other college costs are there? What surprised you on this list?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. This makes me so happy that you’ve partnered with College Ave to spread the awareness of how much college really can cost students. I wish I had realized how much I was putting my finances at risk before I took out so many loans myself.

  2. Wendy @ The Prescribed Life

    I think room and board and textbook expenses are probably the biggest ones people “forget about”, but I remember an organic chemistry book and set costing upwards of $400! This is a great list to make sure you’ll be prepared for extra expenses.

  3. Adriana @MoneyJourney

    Yup, this pretty much sums it up. Although, at graduation, we got our graduation gowns and caps for free (and got to keep the cap, yipee).

    Few realize the true cost of college implies so many other fees, apart from the college tuition itself. I attended college for 2 years in Italy (before dropping out to pursue studying a totally different field) and managed to ‘waste’ a few thousands (!) in transportation fees, books & supplies, even food costs added up although I did my best to brown-bag lunch &few snacks every day.

    I have to admit, I didn’t really think about the added costs, my only concern before enrolling was whether or not I could afford the tuition. All other costs that came after were a huge slap in the face 😀

  4. Oliver @

    Student loan policy may varies from college to college but being a partner with College Ave, you have disclosed many points and guide the parents as well as students how much they can be paid in the head of student loan. Excluding tuition fee, other heads like rooms, transport etc also required amount from student’s end.