The Real Price Tag

College prices are cleaning out the pockets of students all over the United States. Often students attend college at a young age and do not think about the price tag, how it will affect them later in life, or even how it will affect them during their collegiate years.

There are often two types of students and two types of institutions. The main questions that students in need ask themselves are: “how much do I have to pay” and “how can I come up with the funds to pay this”.

Some young adults are fortunate enough to have wealthy parents who can pay their tuition and other expenses for them while they attend the college of their choosing.

On the other hand, there are many students that have to take out loans and work part-time all through the time they attend college. These students have to work hard 24/7 and are constantly thinking about money and where it is going to come from to help pay their bills.

Often the cost of living on campus is much higher than that of living off campus. Students typically do not take the time to think about all the costs involved with living on your own versus living on campus or even living with their parents while attending college.

The cost of living on campus is pretty constant in regards to room and board, meal plans and other amenities. The things that students fail to recognize for on-campus housing is some things students would have to pay for off campus such as water, cable, internet, and other amenities.

A major upside to living on campus versus living on one’s own is that these things are taken care of, although they still come with quite the price tag. Additionally, if a student goes out and gets an apartment on his/her own, the likelihood that they already have furniture is not very high.

According to collegeboard.org, on average for a two-year public college as a commuter student would pay roughly $3,345 per year on tuition and fees, $8,003 on Room and Board, $1,364 on books and supplies, $1,774 on transportation and $2,257 on other general expenses. This is merely one end of the spectrum which is fairly cheap for collegiate pricing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum students who attend a private four-year university and live on campus will spend roughly $32,405 on tuition and fees, $11,516 on room and board, $1,249 on books and supplies, $1,033 on transportation and $1,628 on other general expenses associated with college living.

Overall, on the cheaper end of the spectrum for a year of schooling it costs roughly $16,833 and on the more expensive end students may pay about $47,831 for their “college experience” according to collegeboard.org.

Students often have to pay for things such as books, transportation and anything else they may encounter out of pocket. Clearly, books and supplies are important for someone attending college. Textbooks cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. When a student goes to return them at the end of the year they receive not even half of the money spent.

The meal plans available at Saint Leo University range from the unlimited plan at $2,310 a semester, a ten meal plan at $1,540 a semester and a five meal plan at $770 a semester. Realistically, if an individual buys groceries for themselves’ they will most likely spend only $50 a week which over the sixteen week semester they will spend roughly $800. Clearly, paying for groceries and making your own food is more cost conscious at this point.

Some people say that if an individual is in need of funds then there is always financial aid and scholarships but they fail to recognize that financial aid is very circumstantial and does not account for families that do not help students or that are in debt and cannot help the student. Scholarships are also very circumstantial.

Financial aid awards and scholarships are often on a first come first serve basis and that makes it hard for indecisive or even underprivileged students (some students may not be able to access necessary materials or information).

Many students have a hard time distinguishing fun money from school money and end up spending on unnecessary things due to a lack of guidance or self-discipline.

Students go through a process of learning how to balance their time to work so they can afford to actually have fun. Often students don’t save their money for this reason alone.

The desire to have fun now far outweighs the more logical decision to save money so that one can afford to have even more fun later on. In the twenty-first century everyone wants to live in the now. To do so individuals need excellent time management skills if they want to succeed in all areas such as school, work, athletics and more.

To start, students must learn to budget both their time and their money to be successful. On top of this, I highly recommend reading the “7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen R. Covey. It’s a good read when looking to better yourself as a person.

Some ways that college students can better budget what little money they have is to overestimate their expenses, underestimating their income, and prepare for the unexpected by setting goals to build an emergency fund in a savings account.

Students should work to differentiate between those items that they feel they need and items they simply want. To do this students should start by making a list of things they would like to save for and buy when they can afford them.

The combination of budgeting and recognizing needs versus wants is one of the most efficient ways to save and spend money as a college student.

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