Expect the Unexpected: Hidden Costs on Campus
Whether you’re paying for your child’s college education with a 529, scholarships, loans, or a combination of these, there are other expenses to consider when making a budget for your child to attend college. Here are a few you may not have thought of.
Transportation: Parking passes aren’t covered by 529 plans, and they can be quite expensive at many colleges and universities. Compounding the issue, parking is usually at a premium so students may be tempted to park in areas they shouldn’t, which could result in parking tickets, towing expenses, damage to the car, and so on. Awareness and planning ahead could help keep these additional costs at bay.
On-campus expenses: Many schools require or encourage students to purchase a sort of debit card that can only be used for on-campus expenses, such as food, book stores, printing, and vending machines. It’s important for students to remember these cards are backed by real money and to factor these funds into any budgeting discussions.
Social activities: Campus clubs, pre-professional organizations, honor societies, Greek groups, and other social organizations can help a student to network and enhance career prospects, but they also generally come with added expenses, from dues to events to conferences to t-shirts and more. It is a good idea to factor in a few hundred extra dollars every semester to allow for these expenses, both anticipated and unexpected.
Campus visits: If your child is attending an out-of-state university, expenses for parental visits such as orientation, move-in, and homecoming can really add up. Likewise, your child would likely be traveling home during peak travel times, such as Thanksgiving. Planning ahead and booking these expenses well in advance can make a huge difference in terms of your budget.
Health insurance: Many students have access to student health insurance plans. For some families, this may be redundant, and submitting proof of outside coverage may save you money. For other families, getting the student on their own health plan may save your whole family money. Either way, it’s an important expense to consider.
As you can see, there are a variety of unexpected expenses for college that can creep up, but awareness, planning ahead, and budgeting can make a huge difference in mitigating these costs.