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Understanding Tuition and Other Costs

Understanding Tuition and Other Costs
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Selecting the right college for yourself or your child entails numerous factors. High on the list of considerations is the cost, which varies widely among schools.

If you are looking to apply to a college, you first need to find out how much it charges for tuition and fees. You also have to know the price tag for room and board, as well as books and supplies. Here is some information to aid you in understanding tuition and other costs involved in a college education.

Tuition

Tuition is the fee charged for the actual college education, charged by the semester or quarter. It is the sum you pay to sit in classrooms and be taught by qualified professors. Students who live in the same state as the school usually pay about half the tuition rate charged to out-of-staters.

Private schools typically have steeper tuition rates than those charged by public colleges. Students pursuing majors in science, engineering, computers, medicine, and the fine arts often are assessed higher tuition.

While the rate of increase in the cost of tuition slowed in 2013, the price continues to rise. Average in-state tuition that year in the United States was $8,893 at four-year, public universities and colleges; and $30,090 at private post-secondary schools.

The highest tuition rates in 2013-14 were at colleges in New Hampshire and Vermont, while the most affordable institutions were in Wyoming and Alaska. Half of full-time students at four-year institutions paid less than $10,300 in tuition and fees in 2012-13, according to the College Board.

Remember that those figures represent the initial cost, before financial aid and student loans are factored into the equation. Pell grants and other federal programs are available. Colleges and universities offer scholarships, as well as reduced rates for low-income students.

U.S. News & World Report compiled a ranking of “best value schools,” taking into account academic quality and tuition rates. The top five were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While these universities charge relatively high tuition rates, significant financial aid is available.

Fees

In addition to tuition, colleges and universities charge a wide array of fees. The first ones you have to pay are the registration and orientation fees. There are also fees for parking spaces, library access, student union membership, recreational facility use, laboratory supplies, access to computers, and student activities.

This is a partial list, as each college has different fees. Waivers for certain types of fees are sometimes available. Speak with the college’s financial-aid administrator about any assistance for which you may be qualified.

Many colleges total their fees and charge a single sum, along with tuition. The College Board reported that the average cost of tuition and fees in the 2012-13 school year was $8,655 for in-state students at public colleges and $29,056 for those attending private schools.

Room and Board

Another significant expense involves student housing and food. The amount varies widely, depending on the sort of housing and meal plan you choose. For instance, simple dorms are cheaper than large apartments. Your room may have a bathroom, or you could have to share bathing facilities down the hall. You can save money by living with more than one roommate.

Colleges and universities generally lump the cost of housing and meals, also called room and board, into a single expense. The average amount in 2012-13 was $9,205 at public schools and $10,462 at private institutions.

An option is to buy a meal plan, but live off campus. You may want to commute from your old home, or rent an apartment (by yourself or with other students).

Books and Supplies

Students also have to come up with money for books and supplies. They must buy textbooks, reference books, and other printed materials. Required supplies include notebooks, file folders, pens, and pencils.

The average cost of these items in the 2012-13 school year reportedly was $1,200 at public colleges and $1,244 at private schools.

Total Cost

According to the College Board, in-state students at public colleges paid an average of $22,261 during the 2012-13 school year for tuition, fees, supplies, meals, and housing. The organization reported that a “moderate” budget for a private college that year was $43,289.

In deciding which colleges to consider, you need to know how much they charge for everything. Then, find out about the financial aid you might be able to get. Understanding tuition and other costs may help get you into the best college you can afford.

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