Hidden Cost of College

As your son or daughter is preparing for life after high school, it's a good idea to spend time calculating the price of college admission.

For example, the University of Iowa estimates costs for resident students for the 2008-2009 academic year to be as follows:
- Tuition and fees: $6,544.00
- Books and supplies: $1,040.00
- Room and board: $7,673.00
- Personal expenses: $2,550.00
- Transportation: $880.00
- Total: $18,687.00

For nonresident students, the cost for tuition and fees jumps to $20,658.00 per academic year. This may seem like an exceptionally large increase, but this is due to the fact that Iowa residents pay taxes which are used to support state educational institutions. Regardless of where you live, it will be much cheaper for your child to attend a college in his/her current state of residence.

Hidden College Costs

While a school's official college costs can provide a good estimate of your child's educational expenses, there are a number of hidden costs to consider as well. For example:


College students have a wide variety of entertainment choices, but the cost of these options can vary significantly. These hidden college costs may come as cheap as a poetry reading or an on-campus movie or as costly as a college football game or a concert, which can easily cost $50 or more. When discussing these hidden college costs with your child, it's best to prepare a weekly budget. Much of this the first semester will be guesswork but spend time talking about what activities he/she will be interested in while living on campus. Remind them that off-campus food binges are what a summer job can finance and those hidden college costs won't be hidden long.


Getting back and forth to school will cost money. Getting around the local town or city will cost money. Transportation beyond walking and bumming free rides from friends is a hidden college cost. And the cost of a car on campus or off campus isn't cheap. Beyond gas, there's parking and insurance; the price of the car itself and sundry items, like upkeep and new windshields or side mirrors. Plan for this hidden college cost.

Greek life:

Joining a sorority or fraternity can be a great way to become adjusted to campus life while making new friends. However, the perks of Greek life come with a hefty price tag. We're not talking about those not-so hidden college costs involving hops. Dues may range from $200 to $500, with additional fees for participating in extra group activities or choosing to live in the group's house.

Professional memberships:

Even though your son or daughter is several years away from his/her first full time job, it's never to early to begin building a strong resume. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is by joining a professional organization related to his/her future career goals. Dues for these groups may range from $50 to $200 per year, with additional fees for attending conferences and networking events. It's not uncommon for students to belong to two or three different groups. Be sure that your student is dedicated to this field before signing on but it's very hard for a parent to not pay this hidden college cost if they want their children to get a leg up on the working world.


Depending upon your son or daughter's proposed major, completing an internship may be a required part of the academic curriculum. Even if an internship is not mandatory, it may be encouraged as a valuable part of preparing for post-graduation employment. Unfortunately, internships mean plenty of hidden college costs because they are generally unpaid and often in a location that is nowhere near the college campus. This means your child will need additional money for room and board during the duration of the internship. A new wardrobe may also be required if the internship takes place in a formal office environment. Moreover, they won't be making any money back home adding French fries to a triple-double burger.

Study abroad:

The experience of studying in another country is a great way for college students to develop fluency in a second language while enhancing their cultural awareness and overall academic skills. Special scholarships are available to help with study abroad expenses, but you can still expect to pay several thousand dollars for the experience.

Many of the hidden college costs will blindside most parents. They'll think tuition and room and board are the big costs but they'll be nickel and dimed but these and many more hidden college costs.

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