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3 College Costs That Have Nothing To Do With Tuition


You’ve probably heard that college tuition rates are climbing nationally. It’s a topic that often makes the nightly news, and for good reason, as tuition has been outpacing inflation since the 1970s. Ready for more tough talk? Tuition is only one piece of the college budget pie.

To help illustrate our point, we visited the online cost calculators at Florida’s six biggest universities: the University of Central Florida, Florida International University, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, Florida State University, and Florida Atlantic University.  When you average their data, the cost of four years at a Florida university comes to $24,849. But that’s just tuition. When you add in the three other big expenses, the average four-year cost jumps to $73,114.

Nineteen percent of adults with debt from their own education report that someone else, such as a parent, is helping them with these debt payments. — The Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016

So what are these three expenses that have nothing to do with tuition?

1.    Housing: Whether it’s a dormitory or an off-campus apartment, it can be expensive to set your child up in their very own living space. At Florida International University in Miami, where the cost of living is high, it costs more for freshman year in a dorm ($6,984) than in the classroom ($6,168 for tuition). Gainesville real estate costs less, with University of Florida estimating housing costs at $5,440 per year.

2.    Food: The “board” part of “room and board” carries its own wallop. When the kids live at home, the family shares the burden of shopping, cooking and cleaning up after meals; at a dormitory, those services need to be outsourced. FSU lists the price of its most popular meal plan at $3,998. University of Florida puts the cost of food at $4,470 whether the student lives on- or off-campus.

3.    Books and fees: The universities estimate these costs at $1,000 to $1,634 per year. In addition to college textbooks, which are notoriously pricey, some classes come with lab fees.

There’s good news in all of this. Attending one of Florida’s prestigious state schools is a bargain compared to attending a private four-year university, where four-year costs easily hit triple digits. Florida students can consider completing their first two years at a local state college before enrolling at a university, saving on room and board.  That cuts overall costs considerably.

The other good news? Knowledge is power. Now that you’ve seen some of the numbers, take another look at your budget and consider what you can do now to prepare financially for higher education. With tuition rising, you can lock in tuition and specified fees at today’s plan prices by opening a Florida Prepaid plan. If you enroll in a University Plan, you can also purchase Dormitory Plans in one year increments to tackle the cost of housing. Then, open a Florida 529 Savings Plan to start setting funds aside for room, board and books.

Student debt is a rising concern – saddling college graduates with monthly payments that prevent them from buying homes and starting families. Starting to save for college early is one of the best ways you can help them go into adulthood and their careers free of debt.

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