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Taking Responsibility for Your College Finances, Part II

Money Jar

Continued from Taking Responsibility for Your College Finances Part I

Once you’ve tallied up all your resources, you need to tally up what you’re actually going to have to pay for the study program of your choice.

Tuition and Fees

On the website of the college(s) you’re considering, there should be a very basic listing of the tuition and fees charged per semester. (Make sure to note whether it’s per semester or per academic year.) Write down the tuition and fees for one year.

Tip—Fees usually vary according to the academic program, but they should be listed with the tuition. However, there could be additional miscellaneous charges depending on your chosen major. (For example, an aviation major will include the costs of flight courses—logging necessary flight hours, jet fuel, etc.) Also, there are often miscellaneous fees that are non-program related but cover things like your reservation, special examination costs, etc. Check the college website carefully.

Living on Campus or Off?

The Room and Board cost listed on the college’s website covers your living quarters and your daily meals at the campus dining hall. Some colleges charge according to a meal plan and some just lump all of the living costs together. You need to pay attention to this, especially if the college (as many colleges do) require that students live on campus for at least their first year. Include this figure in your tangible costs tally.

Tip—Sometimes you can save money by living off campus. However, if you’d like to try this route, remember that you will most likely be paying out-of-pocket for rent, utilities, and possibly renter’s insurance as well as for all of your food, furnishings, and household necessities. There are advantages and disadvantages to both living on campus and off—just make sure you choose the best investment for resources.

Books and Supplies

You will probably want to include an average of at least $300 per semester for textbooks in your cost tally and possibly add another $100 for supplies if you think your classes will need it. Once you register for classes and have your booklist, you can search online and compare prices with the local campus store. And remember, almost anything you study is going to have at least a few specialized tools or supplies that you’ll need to buy as well. Graphing calculators, art supplies, poster board, special presentation binders—it varies according to major, class, and teacher, but they all add up.

Tip—Sometimes the college will sell used textbooks at the campus store (you have to ask for them specifically) or have a website on which students sell their used textbooks. Or you may check out places like or Amazon, where the used books are listed along with the new ones. If you enter the textbook ISBN number on, it will search the main competing websites for the lowest prices on that specific book. Renting books is also a great option if you won’t want to keep them for future reference.

Miscellaneous Expenses

This can be one of the most dangerous categories because it will have to expand to hold everything that doesn’t comfortably fit anywhere else. For example, this covers everything from your cell phone bill, campus vehicle registration, auto insurance, gasoline and car repairs, class trips (art, debate, choir), to money for laundry, athletic equipment, hangout time with friends, desperate coffee refills, birthday gifts or cards for friends, storage bins (for making life work in small spaces), dorm room furnishings, late-night snacks, clothes and shoes, and the list goes on! While you may not want to allot this category a huge amount, make sure to list all the definite costs that aren’t included in your housing category—like cell phone and vehicle registration—because they should be consistent monthly to yearly. Also, don’t forget big-ticket items like travel expenses for Christmas break.

Putting the Pieces Together

Now comes the hard part. Add up all the figures in each list (intangible resources generally can’t have a dollar amount assigned to them and will have to sit this round out) and find the difference between your Resources and your Costs. . . . You now have a good idea of how much one year in college will cost you. Multiply your cost by four and you have the approximate total for your bachelor’s degree. Does the amount surprise you? See this as information enabling you to ask God for His specific provision for your specific needs. Don’t be discouraged! The same God that provided manna for the Israelite multitude in the wilderness is watching over you. And now that you have an idea of what you’re facing, you can begin formulating a plan.

Read Taking Responsibility for Your College Finances Part III

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