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Beyond the Tuition: Saving for Your Child’s Financial Future

| April 17, 2017
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As soon as your first child is born, you and your spouse will likely get all of your financial documents updated — from your will to your home’s deed — to make sure he or she is always provided for. The thought of how you will pay for your child’s college tuition, however, will probably cross your mind even before you have any children.

The CollegeBoard estimated that the average tuition at a public four-year, in-state university was $9,650 in 2016. Multiply that number by four and adjust for a gradual increase in tuition costs every year, and you will see that it is never too early to start planning. You know you should save for tuition, but have you considered the cost of additional expenses that will need to be covered if your child attends college?

Room & Board and Commuting Costs

CollegeBoard found that the average cost for room and board at a public four-year university was $10,440 in 2016, bringing the cost of college up to $20,090 for the year if the student lived on campus. “Room” refers to the room in which the student will live in on campus, and “board” refers to food usually provided through a type of meal plan for campus dining options.

Students who opted to live off campus had a slightly lower price tag for room and board in 2016, with the average cost totaling at $8,060. This refers to students living in apartments or renting  homes, and includes food costs, but not money for gas. Even if your child commuted from your home to college, he or she would still need food and gas costs covered, and any commuting student would require reliable transportation. Transportation costs for all students came to $1,160.

Books, Computer, and Supplies

Textbooks are an essential part of college, and they often come at a hefty price. Students may also need other materials, such as notebooks, pens, and printer ink. In 2016-2017, students can expect to spend $1,250 on books and supplies at a four-year public college.

Although students can utilize the school’s library for computer access, having their own personal laptops will certainly make their time at college easier. According to Digital Trends, consumers have consistently spent about $600 on a new laptop for the last five years. However, Digital Trends suggests spending in the $800 and $1,000 range in order to get a quality laptop, and the best laptops can cost around $1,500.

Going Greek

Many students find that the college experience is not complete without going Greek. Sororities and fraternities can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year. However, since the costs vary widely, they are difficult to compare between campuses and chapters.

The University of Central Florida publishes yearly cost comparisons of fees for all fraternities and sororities on campus. Since UCF is the second largest US university with a Greek system, it is an excellent example. In 2015-2016, sorority fees ranged from $571 to $1,626 per semester, and fraternity fees ranged from $150 to $850 per semester. These amounts do not include rent for Greek housing, cost of fines, or money for gifts and specific clothing required.

Other Expenses

Studying abroad can be another college experience in which your child may wish to participate. The actual cost of studying abroad varies greatly, depending on the college your child attends and the country that is selected. Also, it is worth noting that only 19 percent of students graduate within four years, according to Complete College America. In fact, most students take six years to complete their degree. Based on the numbers above, the costs for room and board, books, and a computer can run between $11,000 and $14,350. Add in expenses such as Greek life and studying abroad, and that number quickly starts to increase. Preparing to pay for your child’s college tuition is important, but don’t forget to factor in other expenses that can cost you more annually than the price tag of tuition.

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