Parents of college-bound> students may be prepared to pay for tuition, books and room and board. But when the bill for the first semester arrives, many parents find themselves surprised by extra charges for technology services, orientation even the library.
On top of tuition, which has been rising swiftly for 10 years, college students already pay an extra $4,000 for books, supplies, transportation and everyday expenses per year, according to the College Board. And the fees don t stop there. Facing their own budget shortfalls, schools are increasingly looking for ways to collect money from students, often charging hundreds of dollars for facilities or activities a student might never use. Then there are costs that few parents think to budget for -- like fraternities and sororities, which typically cost more than $1,000 a year to join.
Colleges are trying to be creative, says Debbie Cochrane, program director for the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit that focuses on making college more affordable. Tuition has gotten so glaringly expensive that schools are trying to raise money in less obvious ways. Besides, once a student is enrolled, there s little a family can do to avoid these fees.
But to be prepared, parents of college-bound children should budget an additional 10% of the college s tuition for those hidden fees each year, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of tuition-assistance sites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.
Here are eight hidden fees to look for and what you can expect to pay.
Freshman orientation: $100
Orientation isn t usually optional, but neither is it free. For opening dorms early, guest speakers or, yes, even orientation parties, some schools charge $100 per student or more. Iowa State University charges $190. Boston University charges $215 per student; if parents and siblings attend, they're charged $100 and $50 each, respectively.
Study abroad enrollment: $800
Aside from regular tuition and the costs associated with living abroad, some schools tack on a maintenance fee for study abroad. Purdue University, for example, charges a fee of up to $853.35 per semester if a student goes abroad through a program that isn t run by Purdue. A spokeswoman for the university says the fee covers maintaining relationships with the host university, including the cost for Purdue officials to travel to the school abroad to check on the program.
Technology: $130 to $445
The days of free computer labs are over. Nowadays students are often charged about $200 per year to cover maintenance, ink and paper, says a spokesman for the U.S. Student Association, a network of college student governments. And more tech-oriented students pay more. At Iowa State, most students pay $115 per semester, but majors in fields like engineering and computer science pay $223.
Student activities: $270
The extracurricular activities on campus look free, in that students don t have to pay to attend them. Instead, there s a student union fee tacked on to tuition bills to help pay for the student newspapers and activities like dances. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland, it s $272 for the year. At California State University, Fresno, it s up to $109 per semester to pay for the recreation center, plus a $34.50 student body fee for support of on-campus student organizations.
Sports: $200 to $1,000
Big-time jocks get college scholarships. Amateurs and enthusiasts have to pay to play. At Ohio State, students in intramural sports will pay up to $125 per team per quarter. These sports aren t supported by university athletic departments, so they turn to students for funding, says Rod Bugarin, a former financial aid officer at Brown and Columbia universities. And even if your child isn t the athletic type, you may still have to pay $1,000 or more to support a school s athletic program especially if it s in the National Collegiate Athletic Association s top division, says a USSA spokesman.
Greek life: $2,000 or more
Call it Phi Kappa Cash Cow. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, new member dues average up to $1,753, and for a student living in a fraternity or sorority house the average cost is up to $2,987 each year, including meal plans. At Ohio State, students living in their fraternity or sorority s home pay an average of around $2,140.
Health care: $30 to $2,400
More than half of colleges offer insurance plans, with annual premiums from $30 to $2,400, according to the Government Accountability Office. At Ohio State, the premium is $2,172 for a full year. At MIT, a basic insurance plan is free for students; an optional extended policy for hospitalization is $1,740 per year.
Parking: $400 to $600
Parents of students who commute avoid upwards of $10,000 in room and board fees, but some of that savings will go toward on-campus parking. At Ohio State, parking fees are up to $600 per year and at the University of Hawaii they cost $426. But don t cut costs on the parking ticket: Universities have their own ticket-writers and have been known to hold diplomas hostage for parkers who don t pay up.