College Expenses Outside of Tuition

Two college students looking at something on a laptopCongratulations!

You are getting ready to go off to college this coming fall on move in day, but outside of tuition do you really know all the expenses you might run into on campus? Here is a list of some things you will need to account for in your budget outside of tuition itself.

Campus Expenses

Room and Board: Okay, this one is you probably already know of. Many colleges will include this expense on your tuition bill as an additional expense. However, it can come as a bit of a surprise for some people. Room and board is the expense you pay for your dorm room, any of the included furniture, the building and grounds department, and for any utilities you use (electrical, etc.). This expense does not include food, it is just for the dorm room and area maintenance itself. This fee can be quite a bit falling within a few thousand dollars a year.

Meal Plan: Food is not included with your dorm room. For most schools they have multiple meal plan options for you to pick from. If you are lucky and have a kitchen or kitchenette in your dorm you can cook some of your food and get a smaller plan or skip it all together. However, for most freshman in college the dorms do not come with a place to cook. You are instead required to get the full-service meal plan, which can also cost a few thousand dollars.

Tip, be sure to check what your meal plan includes and does not include. Sometimes colleges have cafeterias that are not included in the large meal plan because they serve specialty food, and you might have to pay for your meal with cash. So, it is important to keep this in mind instead of getting surprised at dinner. Another way to reduce expenses it to check to see what appliances you can have in your dorm. Making your own coffee each morning, instead of hitting the on-campus Dunkin’, can save you $90 a month for a $3 coffee that can be spent elsewhere or saved.

Technology Fees: This is normally a smaller fee than the first two and normally falls within a few hundred dollars. This covers the cost of on campus wifi and the ability to use their equipment, normally in the library. Not all computer labs on the campus are included with the technology fee so it is best to ask a Residential advisor what equipment is included in this fee and free to use.

Tip: Instead of buying a printer for your room, printing in the library can save you a lot in the long run. It normally allows for black and white printing, and most are open extra long hours if not 24/7.

Lab/Studio Fees: These fees typically go hand in hand with some of the classes that you pick. If you are an art, computer, or science major you might see these a lot more than other students. These fees are for access to the specialized facilities on campus to conduct assignments from your class. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for each additional lab fee.

Books/Class Materials: Almost every class has some kind of book or materials that are required to be used for your class. There is normally a campus bookstore that can sell new and used versions of all the textbooks required for you classes. You also have the option to search on Amazon or other sites to find a slightly used cheaper option for your books. Just make sure that it is expected to come in on time for the first class, many students make the mistake of not checking the delivery date. Another great way to reduce this cost is to borrow books from friends who have taken the course already. They might allow you to borrow it at no charge or rent it for much cheaper than the bookstore.

Depending on your major, books can cost anywhere from just over a hundred dollars a semester to a few hundred dollars a semester. You can also save more money by selling your books back to the bookstore when you are done with them or renting them to friends who might be taking the class next semester. If you intend to sell them back, you can do so through the campus bookstore or When you sell them back expect to get a fraction of what you purchased them for, you also can sell them directly as an independent seller on Amazon.

Parking Pass: This expense for commuters is the same as room and board. It is an expense that has to be included for you to attend the college, when no public transportation is available. For those who live on campus this is an optional fee. Having the ability to decide whether to have a car on campus or not is a great asset. You have the ability to compare how much it might cost for public or private transportation vs a parking pass. For those that attend a school in the middle of a city it might an unnecessary expense. For those that attend a school where there is minimal to no public transportation it is probably a necessity.

  • Public Transportation Cost: If you live in a city and plan to use the public transportation, you will want to know how much you intend to use it. This is important because it will let you know if you want to pay for the monthly pass or pay as you use it. If you frequently need to use the transportation to get from class to class and back to your dorm, the monthly pass could end up saving you a great deal. However, if you just use it on the weekends it might be cheaper to pay as you use it.

Non-Campus Expenses

Technical Equipment: This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Laptops
  • Printers
  • USB sticks
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • and any other software and subscriptions you will need on campus.

Many schools allow students to get free or discounted rates for Microsoft subscriptions. They also have partnerships with some technology companies and offer discounts on certain laptops, so make sure to ask their IT department about it.

When purchasing the technology you need for school, it is best to compare options and look up what software you might need to use for your major. Graphic design students might fare best with a Mac, where Science students might do better with a PC. This is due to the software that will be used and the technology you will probably be learning from. For some software such as Adobe, Microsoft, and more the interface is very different between a Mac and PC and it is easier to be on the same interface as your teacher and classmates.

Dorm Furniture and Accessories: Most dorms have most of the furniture you will need within it. They typically come with a wardrobe, desk, and bed in the freshman dorms. Upper classman dorms can have more furniture depending on the rooms included. They will have a kitchen with cabinets and appliances, dining room table, couch and coffee table. They typically do not include sheets, plates, utensils, TVs, or any personal items so expect to bring these things.

If you are renting an off-campus apartment, they might not come with as much furniture as the on-campus apartment, so make sure to ask before signing the lease.

Things most first year students need include:

  • Sheets & Comforter
  • Pillow
  • Mini Fridge
  • Microwave (if allowed)
  • Curtains
  • Towels
  • Shower Caddy
  • Shower Shoes
  • Lock Box
  • Table lamps
  • Room Decorations
  • Extra storage containers
  • Backpack for transporting books and your laptop safely

School Supplies: You will need to have school supplies on hand for each class ready on your first day of classes. These can include:

  • Notebooks (College ruled)
  • Folders
  • Pencils
  • Sticky notes/page markers
  • Highlighters
  • Pens
  • Paper Clips
  • Erasers
  • And a trusty planner

It is best to shop around for these items to try and get the best prices. Many stores will have going back to school sales, and it can be beneficials to wait for them before purchasing your items. Also, consider buying things like notebooks in packs to save per item.

Miscellaneous: As every college student finds out, you will never truly know everything you need until you get there. Expect to need to purchase a few materials here and there for projects or for activities with friends that you didn’t budget for in advance. Also, expect that you might forget something important like a toothbrush holder and need to run out and purchase it last minute

There are many expenses outside of tuition to consider when attending college. These expenses can be even larger if you are going to college far away from home. Knowing most of them in advance allows you to create a rough budget. When you are on campus it might be difficult to create one so it is best to draw one up before heading off.

We hope this gives you some clarity on unexpected expenses you might find before leaving for college. Congratulations again on your acceptance and enjoy the learning opportunity.

Going off to college next year? Be sure to apply for the Alltrust Credit Union Scholarship, applications available in the beginning of next year. Check out our list of this years recipients!