Cost of School

You know about the cost of tuition and housing. But you also have to add in everything from travel to lab fees and laptops to compute the true cost.

  • How Much to Borrow
  • Public vs Private
  • In-State vs Out-of-State Tuition Costs
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Direct vs Indirect Costs of College

Student Loans for College

Determine what student loan amount is enough

The question often comes up during the college application process: how much will I need to borrow to pay for it all?

The amount of your college loans depends on how much your family has saved, how much financial aid you qualify for, how much grant and scholarship money you get, and more. But the good news is that established formulas will help guide you to the right answer.

  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process governs all student financial aid. Using the financial information you provide when you fill out the FAFSA, your family will be assigned an Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • The EFC tells you how much your family is expected to come up with to cover your overall educational costs for that year. The gap between what you already have saved and your EFC represents the amount that must be financed for college.

Bear in mind that the total cost of college is more than just tuition and room and board. It includes things like your books and lab fees, transportation costs, and laundry, which can add up.

Also keep in mind that your school must first certify that the amount being borrowed is in line with the tuition and other costs accrued. The money you borrow will be sent directly to the school rather than to you or your parents.

Remember these questions as you think about student loans for college:

  • What effect will borrowing money for college have on other family priorities, financial and otherwise?
  • When will these repayment commitments kick in?
  • What are my options for deferring repayment in case of unforeseen financial hardships?
  • What effect will the accumulated interest have on my ability to repay student loan amounts?

Naturally, you should also be aware that by taking on this debt, you have made a legally binding pledge to repay it. The extent to which you do so faithfully will affect your credit standing for years to come.

Private vs. Public Schools

The cost differences between public and private schools and how loans can put them within reach

Media coverage about the exploding costs of post-secondary education tends to focus on the eye-popping expense of top-tier institutions, such as those in the Ivy League. This can induce sticker shock in most parents.

But it also creates a misleading picture, for at least two reasons:

  • Most students end up attending colleges or universities that are considerably more affordable. According to statistics compiled by the College Board, more than 53% of students attend four-year schools whose annual tuition and fees are below $9,000.
  • Many people are unaware of private student loans which put private education within reach for a wide range of students.

Comparing private vs. public school tuition

Private schools are perceived to be more expensive than public schools, but if you examine the numbers, that's not always true. Public schools cost less because they are subsidized by the state, while private schools are not. However, private schools usually have more institutional aid to give out, so the actual cost may be just as affordable.

Private loans allow you the freedom of choice

Relatively few students pay the full list price at a private college, since even more students at private universities receive financial aid than at public institutions. Often, because of endowments and other sources of funding, private institutions have more access to aid than public schools. Overall, about two-thirds of students attending four-year institutions do so with the help of some form of financial aid.

The upshot is this: educational finance experts suggest forgetting about the distinctions between public and private tuition costs, at least as you begin the search process, and instead focus on the school or schools that represent the best fit for you.

Knowing more about private student loans could give you the opportunity to attend the school of your choice. If you have ruled out a private college as too expensive, it still may be a possibility with private student loans. Learn about our Citizens Bank Student Loan, a private loan for college.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

With changing costs, it pays to shop around for college in-state & out-of-state tuition

Generally speaking, the manner in which a college or university charges in-state versus out-of-state tuition to students depends on whether they're a public or private institution. Naturally, since they're supported directly by state taxpayers, public institutions usually (or at least traditionally) charge higher tuition for students coming from outside the state than they do for their own residents. Also, keep in mind that residency requirements vary.

The private school approach

On the other hand, instead of charging different rates for college in-state and out-of-state tuition, private colleges and universities usually have the same sticker price for both types of students. But that doesn't mean the actual price your family will pay will be the same. Depending on how the institution wants to balance its student profile, it may well offer more financial aid for students from certain targeted places, in part to maintain a diverse student population. That can result in you being awarded more financial aid if you happen to come from a geographical area the school has identified as a priority.

The public school approach to college in-state tuition

Publicly funded institutions have worked together to offer steep discounts—sometimes equating to the same university in-state tuition rates charged to their own residents—to out-of-state students. They created:

  • Reciprocity agreements between contiguous states
  • Multi-state educational compacts

Some publicly funded institutions have long offered university in-state tuition rates to students from contiguous states, either informally or through formal reciprocity agreements.

Actual Cost for Attending College

It's not just tuition. . .

When you are still young and you're trying to save for your college education, you're probably focused mostly—or possibly exclusively—on two large-ticket items: tuition cost and room and board, either on-campus or off-campus.

And why not? Those categories comprise by far the largest portion of your post-secondary educational expenses. But many families are also surprised by how much they must spend on incidental—but nevertheless essential—items.

You should know that the federal government has a rigorous formula when it comes to calculating your Expected Family Contribution. It requires each accredited institution to provide a cost-of-attendance budget each year, which can serve as a starting point for estimating your family's costs.

For Federal Pell Grants and Direct Stafford Loans, covered costs are limited to:

  • College tuition cost and fees
  • On-campus room and board
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Direct Stafford Loans can also cover the following expenses:

  • Travel expenses
  • Child care, if applicable
  • Costs related to handicapped students

Remember that, depending on your needs and preferences, you may encounter other categories of expenses that must be accounted for, such as lab fees or trips home.

Calculate College Costs

Remember to factor in the indirect college expenses, too

When it comes to calculating college costs for attending the school of your dreams, it can be alarming enough to consider the obvious costs that are impossible to miss, like tuition. But many students understandably fail to also include a host of smaller—but still considerable—indirect college costs that they'll have to shoulder. To draw up a realistic budget and perform an education cost analysis, you'll need to consider both categories of expenses.

Direct college costs

Think of the direct college expenses as the big-ticket items that most people would ordinarily consider when planning. They include:

  • Tuition payments
  • Room and board payments (or rent and food if you plan to live off-campus)
  • Various other school fees (such as an annual activities fee, for instance) many of which are simply rolled into the price of tuition

Indirect college costs

Indirect college expenses include books and other college supplies as well as miscellaneous out-of-pocket costs that you generally don't pay directly to the college. They include:

  • Books and school supplies
  • Computers/laptops and printers
  • Transportation (both at school and between school and home). May include airfare, bus or train expenses, and/or gas, insurance, parking fees and upkeep if you'll have a car
  • Personal expenses—entertainment, laundry, etc.
  • Child care for a student's children

The good news is that many of the indirect costs—including computer rental or purchase, books and child care—can be financed through your student loans.