College Costs Include More Than Just Tuition

Tuition fees are the first thing most people think about when calculating the cost of college. And that is totally justified considering tuition fees are the largest expense associated with a college education.

However, the tuition fee is not the only expense involved. There are a number of other expenses that need to be factored in when calculating the total cost of college. There’s the cost of room and board, textbooks, transportation, miscellaneous fees, and other incidentals. All of these can add up significantly, as many as several thousand dollars more than the tuition price. Ignoring these additional costs can give you a very unrealistic picture of the total amount that a college education is going to cost you. (Luckily, College Raptor can help you get a more personalized look at the true cost college for you. With your free account you can compare individualized costs for nearly every 4-year college in the US).

Here’s a breakdown of the major expenses you need to take into consideration after the tuition fees with ideas on how to keep the costs as low as possible if cutting college costs is a priority. Keeping the costs low means you can take fewer loans and have less debt, which is totally worth it!

Rows of books opened towards the camera, with one large textbook standing out.

Room and Board

The cost of room and board is the single largest expense you will incur after tuition fees. Depending on the college and the living arrangements that you choose, room and board may make up almost half of your total college bill. Overlooking the cost of room and board can be a huge mistake.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cut back on the cost of room and board.

If you are attending a local college, your best living arrangements are at home. Think of all the money you will save, which can then be put towards so many other expenses. The thought of being able to get by with a lower loan can be a huge incentive.

If the college is further away and living at home is not an option, consider opting for a cheaper on-campus dorm or explore the possibility of off-campus housing with roommates.

Location also has a major impact on room and board costs. If you have an option, consider enrolling in a college in a small town or more rural area. Living expenses there are considerably cheaper than large cities, especially for off-campus apartments.

The cost of living in a dorm can also vary a lot based on the type of room and the number of amenities you opt for. Room with a private bathroom and air conditioning will cost more than rooms with no air conditioners and showers down the hall. Keep your budget in mind when choosing.

There are several different types of meal plans that you can choose from. Some of these may include meals that you may not eat on a regular basis. Choosing a meal plan that is consistent with your specific needs will help you save on board. Students are allowed to change their meal plan at the end of the term. If you find that you do not make use of the meals that your chosen meal plan provides, you may want to switch it up.


They may not seem terribly expensive. However, the cost of buying new textbooks can add up to almost $1,200 every year. That’s no small amount. Instead of going that route, it makes better financial sense to explore ways to cut back on this cost.

For starters, do not buy your books from the campus bookstore. They may be the most convenient but you will end up paying a price for this convenience as the prices tend to be higher than the other options on this list.

The first option you should look into is getting second-hand textbooks. You will pay the lowest price when you buy second-hand instead of brand new. If this does not work out, your second best option is to look for used textbooks online. There are several sites that sell used textbooks for a fraction of the price of a new book. It may cost you more than buying directly from another student, but it is still cheaper than buying brand new.

Selling your used textbooks at the end of the year is a great way to recover some of the money that you spent on your books.


Transportation costs can vary considerably depending on where you stay and your mode of transportation. If you are living on campus, you may pay extra for room and board but you will save on transportation costs. If you are living off-campus, your transportation costs will depend on whether you are driving your own car, cycling, or college or using public transit. Buying a cycle will help you save the most when it comes to transportation costs.

You will also have to factor in the cost of long-distance transportation if you are attending a school in another state. This cost can vary tremendously depending on how far the college is from home and whether it involves taking a flight, train, or bus or whether it is within driving distance.

Miscellaneous Supplies

In addition to the major costs of tuition, room and board, transportation, and textbooks, there are several other expenses that inevitable.

First off, there is that endless list of back to school supplies, which includes notebooks, book bags, stationery, and other computer and desk accessories such as pen drives, folders, pen holders, computer paper and more.

Then there are all of those other non-academic expenses. That includes basic amenities, if you are renting an off-campus apartment, to phone bills, socializing, and purchasing tickets for sporting and music events.

When calculating the cost of college, make sure to add up all of the big and small expenses. Get a clear picture of how much it will cost you. This will help you make more informed decisions about how much financial aid you will need to apply for to cover these costs and how and where you can cut back on your costs.


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
5.99%-16.48%* Variable
4.39%-15.45%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
6.37% - 16.70% Variable
4.50% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
4.98% - 16.85% Variable
4.24% - 16.39% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
5.98% - 13.74% Variable
3.99% - 12.61% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
6.23% - 16.09% Variable
4.29% - 15.96% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.95% - 8.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 16.85% Variable
4.39% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.00% - 14.22% Variable
4.50% - 14.22% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.