College Costs: A Look At Money and Where It Goes

A lot of people entering college for the first time drastically underestimate how much money they’ll need to get started. The truth is that school has hundreds of dollars worth of expenses beyond tuition and books. Here’s a look at how much money you’ll need to get started and where it all goes.


The average cost for two semesters for state residents at a public college or university is roughly $9,650 per year. For out of state residents, the average figure sits around $24,930. A private, non-profit university is much higher and depends on the institution. These estimates do not include transportation, books, individual class fees, housing, food, or other necessities. It’s just the cost of being a student and classes.

Books and Supplies

The average cost of books and supplies for public colleges is around 1,250 per year if you buy new. Buying used, renting, and avoiding the campus bookstore can dramatically reduce that number. However, you will end up spending a hefty sum in books no matter how thrifty you are.


Room and board can be over 10,000 dollars depending on your college and meal plan if you live on campus. Living at home or renting one apartment with several other people may be a good option for saving money.

Class Fees

Just because you paid tuition doesn’t mean that your classes won’t cost you more. Some courses, especially those that require extra supplies or provide experiences have a separate class fee from tuition. Pay close attention when you’re signing up for classes to make sure you have sufficient funds to cover course fees.

Other Needs

You’re human. You will need trips to the doctor, money for experiences and socializing, clothes, and other expenses. When you’re saving for college, you must factor in emergency and fun money budgets to keep your health and your sanity in the clear.


Without factoring in unknowns such as class fees and emergency funds, your college experience could cost a minimum of 20,900 per year if you choose to live on campus at a public college or university. Your best bet is to start saving early for your college education, make good judgment calls, apply for all the scholarships and grants you can, and cover the rest with student loans. Also, getting at least a part-time job while you attend school is a good idea to keep earning money for the next semester and to cover your other needs.

Don’t skip college just because it’s expensive. Invest in yourself and your future and go to school. Just be prepared that tuition isn’t the final price tag. You’ll have to make sacrifices, but they’ll be well worth it in the end.

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