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The Real Cost: Questions to Ask About College
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Amanda (She/Her)
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted June 18, 2020
Comparing the costs of different colleges and universities is not black and white. There are so many factors that go into calculating the final cost. Take a look at the following collection of questions to help you make the most informed decision.
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Tuition is going to vary from school to school, but the information is typically easy to locate. You may receive a large award to attend a university, but it’s always a good idea to look at the cost for your entire education timeline.

     - What is the cost for the first year and will that change each year?
     - Does the school charge tuition per credit or per semester?
     - What financial aid awards will I receive? Are those based on merit, academics, or athletics?
     - What does the tuition include?
     - Are there other fees for certain classes or campus programs each semester?
     - What additional cost will there be (books, enrollment fees, lab fees)?
Housing and meal plans
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The key to choosing housing is to research what is being offered. It is important to know what you want and the additional expenses before committing to a full year of housing.

     - How does the cost of living compare to where you grew up?
     - What does the room look like?
     - Where is the living location compared to class locations?
     - What are the off campus living options?
     - What other amenities are/aren’t included (kitchenette, gym, cleaning supplies, air conditioning, and laundry)?
     - What food plan options are there and what do they come with?
     - Are there any other food expenses not covered?
     - Do you have any diet restrictions and are those provided for?
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There is more to think about when it comes to travel than just commuting from class to class around campus. Consider these questions to help calculate travel expenses.

     - Is there a car culture on campus?
     - What are the costs and regulations for parking?
     - Is public transportation free for students?
     - How far is the college or university from family?
     - How often will you be returning home to visit family and what costs are associated with that travel (plane/bus/train tickets, gas)?
     - What regular vehicle maintenance will be needed if you decide to bring a car?
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Personal expenses may or may not be directly related to education; but, they are still things to consider when trying to calculate the cost of the whole college experience.

     - What technology will be needed?
     - What will be the cost of medical expenses? If insured, are your college health facilities within your medical network?
     - Is there a free health club for students or will you pay for a gym membership?
     - Will you attend sporting events and are they free for students?
     - Are there costs to participate in extracurricular activities (intermural sports, fraternities/sororities, club dues)?
     - What will be the cost of clothing for new or different climates?
     - Will you work part-time to help pay for education expenses?
     - What student discounts or memberships are offered?

Need more help making that right decision? Don’t hesitate to reach out to financial aid offices to help answer these questions. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has another great resource to compare financial aid offers and projects monthly student loan repayments after graduation. Check it out at:
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