I used to think my husband and I would have our hands full paying for our two sons to attend college. After the Great Recession hit, I realized I might have to budget for higher education for ourselves as well as our sons. Many of our colleagues and friends returned to college after getting laid off from the construction, public relations and newspaper industries. In addition to the cost of tuition, I have found there are all kinds of hidden costs associated with higher education. According to a recent article by Morningstar, room and board, books, technology and other expenses can add to the cost of attending college. We have found some ways to save money, but nothing will dramatically change until people demand colleges lower their tuition costs. According to Morningstar, the average cost for in-state tuition is $9,000 and $22,000 for out-of-state students. Private four-year colleges cost about $30,000 per year, which is more than most college graduates earn in salary.
Living with relatives
When one of my friends decided to pursue a master’s degree, she rented out her home in another state and moved in with her mother near the college. According to the Morningstar author, students may save money by living at home. It may “cramp” the student’s lifestyle, but it’s become an economic necessity for most people. In my Florida community, attending a commuter college has become the rule instead of the exception. We save thousands of dollars by having our son live at home while attending college nearby.
Saving on transportation
When my older son attended college in New York, we ended up spending more money than expected on travel. We purchased unexpected plane tickets. He needed a car since he couldn’t ride a bicycle through the snow. My son decided to come home to Florida to receive on-the-job training. His brother saves on transportation costs by car-pooling. His college has special parking set aside for people who carpool. He can also ride a bicycle using a bicycle trail that leads to his college.
Counting the cost of technology
Other hidden costs of college include technology and books. I have found my sons access the Internet using their phones, but when they attend college classes they need laptops and tablets. I though we would save money on college textbooks by using used books, but the class typically require the latest editions. My son saves us hundreds of dollars, though, by going online to buy the books. Evidently, people who drop the classes sell the newer textbooks at a huge discount.
Even though I hate the high cost of college and all the associated costs, I know I can’t do anything about it. Not only did my sons attend college in their late teens and early 20s, but they will probably attend college again in their 30s and 40s. My husband and I are likely to return to school as well because so many jobs require updated certifications, skills and training. In my community, the so-called “college experience” has changed dramatically from when I was a college student in the 1990s. I went away to college, lived in a dorm and studied less “practical” courses such as feminist theology and literature. College nowadays has to be zeroed in on specific marketable skills that translate into specific careers. It’s just a shame that education has to come at such a high sticker price.
More from this contributor:
What We Gave up to Buy Our Dream Home
I’m Happy in our Smaller Home
Fighting Fair About Money