Hidden Costs of Going to College

Unexpected expenses and fees can make life on campus costlier than you think.

Certain college costs, from tuition and books to room and board, are hardly a surprise. But for many students, the college experience also includes expenses that are easily overlooked. We’ve uncovered several hidden costs of going to college that you might want to budget for before you arrive on campus. Here are three of them.


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Keeping a car on campus

Nearly half of all college students have a car at school. While convenient, paying for parking can quickly add up. At Ohio State University, for example, parking permits can approach $800 per year. You’ll also need to budget for gas, maintenance and insurance, too.

Save money by leaving your car at home. Instead, rely on a bike, your feet, college shuttles, public transit or a car-sharing service like Zipcar.

Joining a fraternity or sorority

Going Greek isn’t cheap. At the University of Michigan, for example, dues for the first semester of sorority membership range from $220 to $1,720. For fraternities at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, new members pay an average of $2,000.

Ask the campus Greek-life coordinator to provide a specific rundown of fraternity and sorority fees so that you can flesh out your budget. Also, many Greek chapters have scholarship programs and payment plans for members.

Going to the big game

If your school is a powerhouse in a big-time sport such as football or basketball, expect tickets to be expensive—even with a student discount. Football season tickets for students can range from $77 at Virginia Tech to $245 at the University of Notre Dame. Student season tickets to both basketball and football games at Indiana University are $300.

But sports-loving students can be frugal and still get in on the action. Lots of schools provide either free or very cheap student tickets for such sports as volleyball and baseball because demand is lower.

Andrea Browne Taylor
Contributing Editor

Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.