10 College Costs Other Than Tuition and Housing

US News & World Report

By Farran Powell
October 5, 2016

Families saving for college should aim to sock away extra funds for incidentals, experts say.

While household expenses may go down a little once a student leaves the nest for college, there are other bills associated with sending a student to school.

Here are 10 college expenses aside from tuition and housing costs that families might not have planned for in their budget.

1. Clothes
Despite numerous student discounts available at many clothing retailers, the price can add up for a student who’s moving from a warmer to a cooler climate for school.

Some schools, college advisers say, have grants for special emergency expenses that can cover a significant expense for a student who qualifies for financial need. That grant might cover the cost of buying a heavy winter coat, for instance.

2. Summer Storage
For students attending a college that’s more than a short drive from home, it’s often cheaper and easier to store those dorm room furnishings.

To tackle storage costs, experts say to check whether the school partners with a storage company or if there’s free storage available on campus for students who plan to return in the fall.

3. Purchasing Electronics
A 2016 study from the Rubicon Project found that tech purchases make up the bulk of back-to-school spending, especially for parents of college freshmen, who spend an average of $470 on technology and electronic devices.

The good news is, under a recent change by Congress, laptops and internet access are now considered qualified expenses for 529 plan distributions.

4. Greek Life
“As for expenses that parent’s don’t plan for, No. 1 is Greek Life,” says Sean Moore, founder of college financial planning service SMART College Funding. “Not everyone does it, but it’s not an expense that people typically think about.”

Dues typically range between $20 and $200 – or more – per month, and follow a monthly schedule to cover social events, insurance, dues to the national or international organizations and other operational costs – such as maintaining the grounds of the chapter house.

5. Studying Abroad
About 10 percent of US college students study abroad, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

Study abroad programs typically vary in cost based on several factors, such as the cost of living in the host country and the inclusiveness of the curriculum. Some schools have generous programs where it doesn’t cost much more than staying stateside, experts say.

6. Transportation
If a student takes a car to campus, that carries additional costs, including parking, insurance, fuel and maintenance.

Although students can use federal student loans to cover transportation costs, experts say, these expenditures aren’t considered qualified education expenses under 529 plan distributions.

7. Traveling Home
Traveling home is an expenditure that adds up over the year, college advising experts say.

“The closer you are to home, the less it will cost you,” says Moore from SMART College Funding, who recommends that parents have a conversation with their student on how often they travel if it involves a flight. “A plane ticket three or four times a year can get quite costly.”

8. Books and Supplies
A recent survey by the College Board found the average cost of textbooks and supplies at both private and public colleges exceeds more than $1,000 a year.

Although the cost of paying for books and school supplies id often included in financial aid award packages, sometimes it isn’t enough. “It’s not out of the question to have a $200 or $250 book,” Nat Smitobol, a college admissions counselor at IvyWise in New York City, told US News.

9. Health Insurance
Families who have at least one parent with insurance provided by an employer usually opt to extend their coverage to insure their child until age 26, experts say.

But college advisers say for families that are paying their own health premium, a college health plan might be a cheaper alternative for covering their student.

10. Dining Out
“Your meals are already paid for, but if you’re wanting to go out with frond every Friday or Saturday, that’s when the costs begin to spiral,” says Moore from SMART College Funding, who adds that restaurants that accept a college meal plan tend to charge more than eateries on campus.

“If you go out to eat every Friday with your friend you’re going to find yourself out of money halfway through the semester,” he says.