Demystifying College Costs: Get to Know the Hidden Costs

CollegeLearn about the hidden college costs to avoid being taken aback by these unpleasant surprises.

Sending your child to college is no easy task. In its most recent survey, the College Board disclosed that the average cost of sending a child to an in-state public college for the 2014-2015 academic year amounts to $23,410. On the other hand, you can expect to spend an average of $46,272 if you are sending your child to a private college. To complete the picture, the most expensive colleges command a $68,000 per year sticker price.

If you think that sending your child to college is an expensive affair, you need to know that the prices are still going up. Worse, there are other college-related costs that can wreck havoc on your budget. To avoid being taken aback by these unpleasant surprises, you need to know about these hidden costs so you and your college-bound child can create a more reasonable and flexible budget, and come up with creative ways to keep college costs in check.

Uncovering Hidden College Cost

Aside from the sticker price (tuition plus fees), you also need to prepare yourself for some of the less obvious costs of sending your child to college. Here are some of them.

  • Fraternities and sororities. Joining an organization can be costly. This is especially true if your child decides to join a Greek organization. New member dues can be anywhere between $200 to $1,500 (sometimes even more) while per-semester dues of active members are significantly higher. Joining these organizations also entails additional spending (e.g. clothes for special events and traveling).
  • Club memberships. Sports club memberships can cost as much as $2,500 per year, a portion of which goes toward travel expenses (transportation, hotel accommodation, and food) for tournaments. However, participation in some student organizations (debate club, dance club, etc.) may cost a lot less.
  • Wardrobe. Aside from buying back-to-school clothing at the start of the academic year, your college-bound child may need to buy particular attire for special events, extracurricular activities, career fairs and internship interviews.
  • Travel. Anticipate how many times your child will return home from college during the course of the year so you can plan and budget accordingly.
  • Entertainment. While students generally get big discounts, buying a ticket to the big games can still be pricey.
  • Electronics. According to the results of a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), 60% of college students plan on buying electronic devices (computers, smartphones and other digital devices).
  • Laundry. Since your child will be doing his or her own laundry, he or she needs to shoulder the costs of detergent and dryer sheets, and pay for the use of a community washer and dryer. Although the cost may seem negligible, it can definitely add up over time.