The Hidden Costs of A College Education

Some families get a huge sticker shock when they start looking into the cost of a college education. There are so many factors to consider; are you going to a two-year college or a four-year university? Will it be a public or private school? Will you have any type of financial assistance or will you be fully responsible for the costs? But, even once you narrow these questions down, there are still more questions to answer… and the answers can affect your TOTAL college cost in a big way. College Foundation of North Carolina is here to help. We can help you plan, apply, and pay for college. Let’s go through the costs categories one by one.


The tuition part is fairly straightforward. As we mentioned above, the tuition cost will vary depending on what type of school you attend. These costs are usually laid out in the open so you know exactly what they’ll be. What may not be so clear are the “FEES.” These are costs — that you are generally required to pay, added on to the tuition. They are usually things like student activity fees or administrative fees. You may also find that some classes have additional costs associated with them.


This is the cost for a semester of living in a dorm room and access to school-supplied dining. At some schools, this may be mandatory during your first year. Many schools have different options at several price points, but the key here is to have an honest family discussion. There are a lot of social benefits to living and dining on campus, not to mention the safety net it provides most parents. But, if you are a student who will have a regular work schedule that takes you off campus during dining hours, you may find yourself paying for meals you can’t even take part in.


Have you priced a college textbook lately? A single textbook can cost as much as $200. It’s estimated that students can expect to pay around $1,200 on books and supplies annually. Some higher math and science textbooks can cause that figure to rise even more. There are options, such as buying used textbooks online or renting. And don’t forget about supplies. We’re no longer talking about simple things like folders, paper, and pens. We’re talking laptops with specialized software and high-functioning calculators. Even art supplies can add up quickly for students on a more creative pursuit. It’s better to be prepared for the worst budget-wise and then enjoy the cushion if you’ve over-estimated.


Will you be bringing a car to school? Then you need to remember the costs associated with upkeep, including gas. And don’t forget school parking permits. Those fees can vary widely, with the minimum at several hundred dollars extra per year. At some universities, parking permits can soar past $1,000! If you plan to drive your car to school, it’s worth finding out. If you don’t plan on driving a car, don’t forget to factor in transportation to and from home for holidays and breaks.


If you won’t be living at home, you’ll have to start paying for things that were free formerly. Think laundry and supplies, shampoo, snacks, and entertainment. If you live off campus, will you need to store things like apartment furniture during the summer months?

It may all seem overwhelming at first, but CFNC is here to help. Our College Search tool can help you get information about colleges and universities so you can find the right match for you. We can even help you understand and guide you through the sometimes overwhelming world of college costs. No one ever said filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was fun! CFNC can help you with your FAFSA as well. It’s the key to unlocking opportunities for financial help.