Many factors go into choosing the perfect college; you look at the academic programs, research opportunities, reputation, location, and student life, and of course, you look at tuition costs. Tuition cost play heavily into college selection, particularly when the average student debt load is $29,400, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. Tuition and other college fees continue to rise, so choosing schools with the total cost of attendance in mind is a necessary part of the process. It may eliminate some dream colleges for you, but going to your second or third choice is better than struggling to pay student loans after you leave.
|Licensed by Ryan Harrison via Deposit Photos|
Tuition is the first number you look at when it comes to college costs, but it shouldn't be the sole
basis of your cost decision. The total cost of attendance is the much more significant number, as it factors in college fees, the cost of room and board, equipment fees, and other costs associated with colleges. The room and board fees in particular vary greatly depending on the school's facilities and the location of the school. According to Federal Student Aid, additional fees to consider that add to the total cost of attendance include supplies for your dorm room, activity fees, and parking passes.
Commuting to a local school saves you from dealing with high out of state tuition fees, but the transportation costs that come from a commute may eat up your savings. This is particularly true if your car is a gas guzzler or is prone to breaking down frequently. Look into public transit or carpooling options in your local area if you attend a nearby school. Network with students who live near you to see if you get a ride-share into campus. When you go to a college farther away, consider the costs of bringing your car with you. If you live on or near campus, you may not have a strong need for a car, particularly for schools situated in larger cities. You avoid the costs for parking, insurance, and car payments, but you do limit your independence if you're in an area without strong transportation options.
Explore School Specific Financial Aid Packages
You've found the perfect school that has the college degrees and courses offered that you've always wanted. The cost seems out of reach, but even the most expensive Ivy League schools may be more attainable than you assume. Many of the top schools who cultivate cream of the crop talent provide need-based assistance for students to cover the costs. This assistance brings down the costs of college to a more manageable level for many students, so always explore what your school's financial aid office can do for you before you give up on your top choice.
If you are already employed, your employer may help with tuition costs if the degree is related to your career or job. Talk to the human resources department at your company to determine whether you get any assistance, how much assistance you receive, and whether the company offers any scholarships for college. This option is more likely to be open to non-traditional students who are looking to broaden their skill set, get a degree to move into management, or are preparing for a career change.