What Does College Actually Cost?

What Does College Actually Cost?

It's no secret that college can be expensive. While tuition is generally the largest cost associated with higher education, it certainly isn't the only one. Here is a rundown of five college expenses, and a few tips to help you keep them to a minimum.


For most college students, housing costs are the biggest expense after tuition. According to scholarships.com, the average student pays between $7,500 and $9,000 per year on housing. If your school requires you to live in a dorm, keep costs down by choosing one of the lower-cost housing options. If you can live off-campus, split the monthly rent between several roommates, find an apartment further away from campus, or if you are within commuting distance of the college, consider living at home. Be sure to check with your college about their housing policies.

Textbooks And Other Supplies

Today's students spend an average of $1,200 each school year on books and other supplies. You may be able to reduce this expense by buying used textbooks and supplies or by using digital versions of textbooks whenever possible. You also may be able to purchase previous editions of textbooks, but check with your professor before you buy.


Most schools offer flexible meal plan options that may save you money. If you have access to a kitchen, cut back on food costs by buying groceries and cooking your own meals rather than always eating in restaurants or the school's cafeteria. You may also split the cost of a discount bulk-food store membership with a roommate to save on essentials.

Parking Fees

If you take your car to college, you'll likely have to buy a parking pass. The annual cost of college parking passes varies from school to school, so do your research beforehand so that you know what to expect. To cut the costs of parking (and gas) consider using public transportation, walking, or riding a bike.


According to the New York Times, the overall cost of tuition and fees has risen nearly 560% over the past three decades. You can help offset the cost of tuition by applying for scholarships. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) will determine you are eligible for institutional scholarships, grants or work-study programs.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Education.